Updated: 01/16/2014 12:15 | By Agence France-Presse

Indonesia floods leave 13 dead, tens of thousands displaced

At least 13 people have been killed and 40,000 have fled their homes after torrential rain triggered flash floods and landslides on Indonesia's northern Sulawesi island, officials said Thursday.

Indonesia floods leave 13 dead, tens of thousands displaced

Search and rescue members help residents after a flood hits Manado, the capital city of the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia., on January 15, 2014

Rivers on the island's northern tip overflowed and burst their banks, sending torrents of water surging through the city of Manado and surrounding areas that swept away poorly-constructed houses and vehicles.

People waded through waist-deep water to get to safety, while some took to rubber dinghies to escape the rapidly rising flood waters. 

Many of those displaced took shelter in government buildings and churches in the Christian pocket of Muslim-majority Indonesia.

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho described the flash floods as "massive", adding the rains had also triggered numerous landslides across the mountainous region.

"Thirteen people were killed, two are missing and 40,000 people have been evacuated," he said.

North Sulawesi province disaster agency chief Noldy Liow told AFP the death toll could rise, adding: "We expect more heavy rains in the next two to three days."

Six districts and cities in North Sulawesi province were affected, said Nugroho, with the provincial capital Manado one of the worst-hit areas. 

Liow said that the flooding and landslides took place across the province on Wednesday.

He said five people were killed by surging floodwaters in Manado; five were killed by landslides in Tomohon city; and the rest were killed in Minahasa district in  landslides.

Indonesia is regularly affected by deadly floods and landslides during its wet season, which lasts for around six months.

Environmentalists blame logging and a failure to reforest denuded land for exacerbating the floods.

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