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Rescue workers recovered more bodies buried under tons of mud following a landslide that crashed onto a hilly village on Indonesia’s remote Natuna islands, bringing the death toll to 30, officials said Thursday.
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 in a statement.
Authorities have deployed nearly 700 rescuers, including police and military with heavy equipment to search for 24 people still missing who were apparently trapped in houses that were buried under the landslide, which was 4 meters 13 feet deep, said Abdul Rahman, who heads Natuna’s search and rescue agency.
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“Improved weather allowed us to recover more bodies,” Rahman said in a video statement.
Eight people were pulled out alive with injuries, three of whom are in critical condition, National Disaster Management Agency chief Suharyanto said Thursday. They were rushed late 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 had been hampered by heavy rains around the disaster site. Weather had forced the search effort to be halted several times, while downed communications lines and electricity also have impeded the operation, said Suharyanto who, like many Indonesians, uses a single name.
A landslide tears through a village on Serasan Island, Indonesia. Rescuers in the remote Indonesian island are searching for people who are believed to be buried in their houses. (BNPB via AP)
“We are doing our best to find the missing victims,” Suharyanto said, adding that sniffer dogs were also being mobilized 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.
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Monday’s landslide displaced about 1,300 people who were taken to four temporary shelters, Suharyanto said. Authorities feared the death toll could still rise.
“Relief supplies have reached those in need so far,” he said.
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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 in West Java’s Cianjur city, about a third of them children.