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Indonesia sends more rescuers as extreme weather hampers search after landslide

Jakarta, Indonesia | March 7, 2023, Tuesday @ 19:23 in World » GENERAL | By: AFP | Views: 1700
Indonesia sends more rescuers as extreme weather hampers search after landslide

This handout photo taken and released on March 7, 2023 by the Natuna ministry of communication and information local office shows a rescue team inspecting the damages following landslides in Natuna islands. (Photo by Handout / Natuna ministry of communication / AFP)

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(AFP) - More rescuers and heavy machinery will be sent to Indonesia’s disaster-hit Serasan Island to search for dozens still missing after a deadly landslide, a disaster official said on Tuesday.

The landslide struck Monday in the remote Natuna region between Borneo and peninsular Malaysia.

Poor weather and downed communication lines have complicated rescue efforts on the island, which is home to about 8,000 people.

Pictures provided by Natuna's communication and information agency showed houses reduced to rubble, with fallen trees and torn roofs visible.

Body bags were lined up on top of a blue tarpaulin as officials gathered to pray for the victims.

Rescuers have managed to find 11 bodies so far, but villagers put the death toll at 15, according to Abdul Muhari, spokesperson for the national disaster mitigation agency (BNPB).

Another 47 people are still missing, while at least 1,200 people have had to seek shelter because of the disaster, he added.

"There are 82 search and rescue personnel on Serasan Island. Fifteen more officers from Jakarta will join the effort tomorrow," Muhari told AFP on Tuesday evening.

Heavy-duty vehicles, along with two helicopters, will also help the search and aid distribution efforts.

- Weather hampers rescue -

Heavy rain has forced intermittent pauses in the rescue operation.

"The rain intensity is still quite high in Serasan," Muhari said, adding that the downpours have been lashing the island since the end of last month.

"The team's safety is of utmost importance amid the high-intensity rain," he said. "We keep observing the weather, so as (it) improves, we will continue the search."

Rescuers were focusing their efforts along a stretch of road near a cliff where around 30 houses were reportedly buried by the landslide.

Muhari had earlier said that the agency was sending food and tents, as well as satellite communication equipment and two helicopters in a bid to establish communication lines and speed up aid.

Indonesia is prone to landslides during the rainy season, aggravated in some places by deforestation, and prolonged torrential rain has caused flooding in different areas of the archipelago nation.

Experts say the country's weather-related disasters are likely being made worse by climate change.

Floods further south in Banjar district, in the Indonesian part of Borneo, have inundated more than 17,000 houses and disrupted lives for a month.

Neighbouring Malaysia has also been hit with torrential rains and vast floods. At least five people have died and nearly 41,000 were evacuated last week in several states of the country.

In 2020, the Indonesian capital Jakarta and nearby cities saw some of their deadliest floods in years after downpours triggered landslides.

At least 67 people died in that disaster.

© Agence France-Presse

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