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Indonesia flooding kills 29, 70,000 flee

JAKARTA, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Flooding in the Indonesian region hit by a tsunami in 2004 has killed 29 people and displaced 70,000 others, government officials said Sunday.

The floods and associated landslides were affecting Aceh, North Sumatra and Riau Islands, cutting off many roads and narrowing escape options, the Jakarta Post said.

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Some highways were under 3 feet of water, the Antara news agency reported.

Heavy rains began Friday, and in North Sumatra, waters spread to 12 districts in Langkat regency, where eight bodies were recovered Saturday and 12 people were missing.

Health Ministry official Rustam Pakaya told China's Xinhua state news agency that deforestation was the main cause of the crisis during the annual rainy season.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla echoed that in a speech Saturday.

"If the forests disappear and our rivers and seas are harmed, we will suffer the consequences, which are natural disasters," Kalla said. He also issued a plea for citizens to report illegal logging, the Post said.

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