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26 May 2024

Heavy rain sparks new landslide fears in Indonesia

By Agencies



Torrential downpours overnight sparked fears of further landslides on Saturday in Indonesia's Java island, where rescuers were still struggling to recover bodies of recent landslide victims, officials said.

Nearly 100 people were killed or missing after landslides buried houses under thick mud across the Central Java province this week, while thousands were forced to move out of homes submerged by floods triggered by days of heavy rain.

"Heavy rain like this could trigger fresh landslides in the same spots. The first ones have scarred the hillsides, making them more prone to landslides," head of the provincial rescue team Eko Prayitno told Reuters.

Authorities have urged people in Tawangmangu, an area in central Java worst hit by landslides, to leave their homes, while rescue workers continue to search for missing bodies buried under the thick blanket of mud despite.

"We know that hundreds of people have moved into government offices and temporary shelters in the fear of fresh landslides but we hope to evacuate more people," Prayitno said by telephone.

The downpours reduced rescue work to a snail's pace said Heru Aji Pratomo, who heads the local rescue team in Tawangmangu.

"Now that we have got excavators up there we could have finished our work by today, but the heavy rain is delaying everything," Pratomo told Reuters by telephone.

So far 60 bodies have been recovered, while seven people are still missing in the Tawangmangu area.

About 27 other people were killed or missing in other districts.

Floods up to 2 metres (6.5 feet) have also inundated several other districts on Java island, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate into temporary shelters.

Landslides and floods are frequent in Indonesia, where tropical downpours can quickly soak hillsides and years of deforestation often mean there is little vegetation to hold the soil.

Indonesia's leading environmental group, Walhi, said on Thursday that ecological destruction caused by deforestation, land conversions and chaotic planning contributed to the disasters. (Reuters)