IMAGE: Indonesian military rescue team loads boxes
Stringer  /  Reuters
An Indonesian military rescue team loads boxes of food which will be distributed to Morowali district, which was hit by floods and landslides, in Soroako in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province on Wednesday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 7/26/2007 9:25:46 AM ET 2007-07-26T13:25:46

Warships delivered emergency aid to flood and landslide victims in eastern Indonesia on Thursday, as the number of people feared dead topped 80, an official said.

Days of torrential rain have forced more than 45,000 people to flee their homes on Sulawesi island, said Rustam Pakaya, chief of the Health Ministry's crisis center, adding that efforts to deliver food, blankets and medicine have been hampered because the downpours destroyed several roads and bridges.

"The sea is the only way, but the waves are too high for ordinary vessels, so we sent navy ships to do the job," he said.

"The rescue work is still being done using manual equipment. There's no heavy equipment at all," added Frets Abast, coordinator of provincial provincial disaster relief teams.

Helicopter food drops were halted on Wednesday because of the rain.

Pakaya said 35 bodies have been recovered since the landslides and floods began last weekend and at least 48 other people are missing and feared dead.

Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, where millions of people live in mountainous regions and near fertile flood plains close to rivers.

Last year, more than 200 people died on Sulawesi island alone due to flooding.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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