Indonesian men look at a neighbourhood swept by flash flood after a dam burst outside Jakarta on Friday. ((Dita Alangkara/Associated Press))

Rescuers continued to search waters and mud in a suburb of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Saturday, looking for survivors or bodies after a dam burst and sent water crashing into hundreds of homes, killing at least 77.

More than 100 others are still missing and feared dead.

Hundreds of police, army personnel and other volunteers conducted a grim search for survivors and bodies amid the debris in the area.

Torrential rains caused an earthen dam built in the early 1900s to burst its banks on the southwestern edge of Jakarta early Friday and sent two million cubic metres of water flooding into more than 400 homes, toppling telephone lines and sweeping away cars.

"The water was so strong it was like a tsunami," said Cecep Rahman, 63, who lost his wife, son and 10-month-old granddaughter. "I couldn't do much for my family. I was swept away and battered by debris."


Residents stand near a burst dam in Jakarta on Friday. ((Tatan Syuflana/Associated Press))

He was among hundreds gathered at the nearby Muhammadiyah University, which has been turned into an emergency centre and makeshift morgue. Soldiers and police carried bodies and laid them on the floor of a mosque to be prepared for burial.

Mothers wailed as they were asked to identify their dead children. Medical workers treated the injured for cuts and bruises, while hospitals filled with those more seriously hurt.

National Disaster Coordinating Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said Saturday at least 77 were dead and 102 were missing.

"We've evacuated almost all of the survivors from their houses," he said. "Now we're focusing on digging through the mud and debris in search of bodies. We fear most of the 102 reported missing have been killed."

'I should have been there to save them'

The powerful current is believed to have carried some bodies several kilometres, officials said.

Water levels were still so high that people waited on rooftops for rescuers.

"I'm devastated," said Cholik, 21, crying as he sat next to the body of his 54-year-old mother.

His brother-in-law was also killed and his one-year-old niece is missing. "I wasn't home last night … I should have been there to save them."

Some houses are still submerged in up to three metres of water, but as the flood recedes, much of the area is covered in thick mud, authorities said.

Many in the flooded area accused authorities of failing to recognize warning signs and repair damage to the dam. It was weakened in several places by prior flooding that was caused by blocked spillways, said Wahyu Hartono, a former official at Public Works Ministry.

"We need to find a way to take better care of these Dutch-era dams and dikes," he said. "Otherwise there will be more problems like this in the future."

The ministry says an investigation into what caused the dam to burst will be conducted.

With files from the Associated Press