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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Dozens still missing as death toll in Indonesian landslide rises to 30

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Rescuers have recovered more bodies buried under tonnes of mud from a landslide which crashed on to a hilly village on Indonesia’s remote Natuna islands.

It brings the death toll to 30, officials said.

The landslide, triggered by torrential downpours, plunged down surrounding hills on Monday, burying 30 houses in Genting village on a tiny remote island in the Natuna archipelago at the edge of the South China Sea, the National Search and Rescue Agency said.

Authorities have deployed more than 700 rescuers from the search and rescue agency, police and military to search for 24 people, who are still missing after apparently being trapped in houses buried under the 13-feet-deep landslide, said Abdul Rahman, who heads Natuna’s search and rescue agency.

“Improved weather allowed us to recover more bodies,” Mr Rahman said.

Eight people were pulled out alive, though they were injured, including three critically, National Disaster Management Agency chief Suharyanto said on Thursday.

They were taken late on Monday to a hospital in Pontianak city on Borneo island, about 186 miles from Genting, but one person died at sea on the way.

The search and rescue operation has been hampered by heavy rains around the disaster site.

Weather has forced the search effort to be halted several times, while downed communications lines and electricity are also impeding the operation, said Suharyanto, who, like many Indonesians, uses a single name.

“We are doing our best to find the missing victims,” Suharyanto said, with sniffer dogs mobilised in the search.

Two helicopters and several vessels carrying rescuers, medical teams and relief supplies, including tents, blankets and food arrived on the island from Jakarta and nearby islands on Wednesday.

The landslide displaced about 1,300 people, who were taken to four temporary shelters, Suharyanto said. Authorities fear the death toll could rise.

Seasonal rains and high tides in recent days have caused dozens of landslides and widespread flooding across much of Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains close to rivers.

In November 2022, a landslide triggered by a 5.6 magnitude earthquake killed at least 335 people – about a third of them children – in West Java’s Cianjur city.

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