At least 38 people have been killed in flash floods in a remote region of Indonesia's North Sumatra province.

The early morning flood hit in the remote coastal district of Mandailing Natal 275km southwest of the provincial capital Medan.

‘Our latest information from the local district head is that 38 bodies have been found so far,’ he said.

‘Our main priority is to rescue the survivors. The flash floods hit six villages with about 2,200 residents,’ he said.

Powerful waters uprooted trees and smashed through houses in the district, which has largely been cut off.

The head of the Health Ministry crisis centre said a rescue team had been sent to the flood-hit area but was not expected to arrive until the evening.

Floods and landslides are common in Indonesia, which is densely populated and prone to frequent heavy rains.