JAKARTA, Oct 12, 2010 (AFP) - Indonesia denied on Thursday that flash floods in the remote area of Papua that killed at least 148 people were caused by rampant deforestation.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the flooding in West Papua province's Teluk Wondama district last Monday was caused by a natural dam bursting in the area after heavy downpours.
"The dam was formed by landslides, and the landslides were caused by heavy rains and probably triggered by earthquakes," Hasan said.
"Yes, there is logging in Papua. But the logging concessions are far away and not connected to the disaster area," he said.
Officials said more than 100 people were still missing and about 700 people were injured after the floods.
Those who were killed had reportedly drowned were swept away by the powerful waters along with uprooted trees, rocks and debris.
Indonesia is among the top emitters of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming while it also suffers massive deforestation due to illegal logging and clearing for palm oil plantations.
An area equal to the size of three football pitches disappears from Indonesia's forests every hour, according to some experts.