JAKARTA, Indonesia – Two landslides that triggered heavy rains and unstable soil have killed at least 12 people on Java, Indonesia’s most populous island, and left rescue workers searching for survivors, disaster management officials said on Sunday.
Among the dead in landslides in West Java are the head of a local disaster relief agency and an Indonesian army captain who had gone to help rescue survivors of the first landslide on Saturday afternoon. They caught a second landslide that evening.
Landslides also destroyed a bridge and severed several roads in the western village of Jihanguang. Rescuers worked through the night but faced an urgent need for heavy machinery to help move the ground and reach any potential survivor.
“The first landslide was caused by heavy rains and unstable soil conditions,” said Raditya Jati, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. “Subsequent landslides occurred while officers were still evacuating victims in the area of the first landslide.”
A woman whose family lives in the village, Damiria Sihombing, said that her father, mother, nephew, and niece were at home in the village at the time of the landslide. She said by phone from Jakarta, the Indonesian capital 90 miles to the northwest, that the four were still missing.
She said the first mudslide buried the family home, while the second, which was larger than the first, buried the house deeper. Several passersby were also on the track of the second slide.
“Many people came to see the rescue team, and suddenly the second landslide happened,” she said. “There were more casualties than the second because it was much larger than the first landslide. My family is buried inside the house and they haven’t been found yet.”
Ms Sihombing said her parents, both 60 years old, moved to the village after retiring two years ago from Bandung, about an hour away.
She said many people were not home at the time of the landslide because it was afternoon. But among those who were in the house were her parents’ neighbors – a mother and three children. She did not know if their bodies had been found.
Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, warned in October that the country could experience more floods and landslides than usual due to the cyclic weather pattern known as The girl. The rainy season is expected to last until March.
“I want each of us to prepare in anticipation of potential hydrometeorological disasters,” The president said at the time.
By midday Sunday, a local disaster official said rescuers were still trying to determine how many people were missing. And 18 people were reported injured.
A video clip of the scene showed a mud river that traversed a densely populated neighborhood, apparently crushing and covering a number of buildings.
A video clip from the scene provided by the National Search and Rescue Agency showed rescuers working at night, lifting a body on a stretcher and carrying it away.
He showed the last digger lifting a muddy truck so rescuers could reach the ground underneath. The truck said “Fight Virus” on the back.
The first landslide hit the village hours after the Sriwijaya Aviation airliner crashed Crashed in the Java Sea On take off from Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, in torrential rain, killing all 62 on board.
Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,500 islands that straddles the equator, was covered with vast rainforests. But over the past half century, many forests have been burned and trees cut down to clear the way for palm plantations and other farmland.
Indonesia has a population of 270 million people, it is the fourth largest country in the world, and Java, its largest island by population, has more than 140 million people.