Indonesia landslide death toll climbs to 30, dozens still missing

Village affected by landslide on Serasan Island, Natuna regency, Indonesia (BNPB via AP)
Village affected by landslide on Serasan Island, Natuna regency, Indonesia (BNPB via AP)

A deadly landslide in the remote Natuna islands of Indonesia has claimed the lives of at least 30 people, while dozens are still missing.

The landslide occurred on Monday following heavy rains, burying 30 houses in the hilly village of Genting.

Search and rescue operations have been underway since then, with over 200 rescuers deployed from the National Search and Rescue Agency, police and military, according to Reuters news agency. But the operation has been hindered by poor weather conditions, damaged communication lines and a lack of electricity in the area.

Twenty-one deaths were reported earlier, but rescue workers pulled out more bodies buried under the mud on Thursday, bringing the toll to 30.

Eight people were pulled out alive with injuries, three of whom are in critical condition, National Disaster Management Agency chief Suharyanto said on Thursday.

They were rushed late on Monday to a hospital in Pontianak city on Borneo island, about 300km from Genting, Reuters news agency reported, but one person died at sea on the way.

However, the death toll is expected to rise as authorities continue to search for 24 missing individuals who were reportedly trapped in the buried houses. Sniffer dogs have also been mobilised to aid in the search.

Monday’s landslide displaced about 1,300 people who were taken to four temporary shelters, Mr Suharyanto said.

As the search and rescue efforts continue in Natuna islands, two helicopters and several vessels carrying rescuers, medical teams, and relief supplies, including tents, blankets and food, have arrived on the island from Jakarta and nearby islands on Thursday to provide aid to those affected by the disaster.

“We are doing our best to find the missing victims,” said Mr Suharyanto, who uses a single name like many Indonesians, according to Reuters.

“The operation has been hampered by the heavy rains and downed communications lines and electricity, but we are continuing to work tirelessly.”

The Indonesian archipelago, consisting of 17,000 islands, is prone to landslides and flooding during the rainy season.

Landslides and flooding have been reported across the country in recent days due to seasonal rains and high tides, with many residents living in mountainous areas or near flood-prone rivers.

In 2022, a 5.6 magnitude earthquake triggered a landslide in Cianjur city, West Java, which claimed the lives of at least 335 people, a third of whom were children.

Additional reporting by agencies