JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Rescuers on a remote Indonesian island were searching Tuesday for dozens still missing after a landslide that killed 15 people, a disaster official said.
Poor weather and downed communication lines have complicated rescue efforts on the far-flung island of Serasan, in the Natuna region between Borneo and peninsular Malaysia, 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.
Abdul Muhari, spokesman for the national disaster mitigation agency (BNPB), told local broadcaster Metro TV that rescuers had recovered 10 bodies at the scene, while villagers put the death toll at 15.
“Six (bodies) have been identified, while four are still being identified,” he said.
Muhari said 42 people were missing. Eight previously missing people had been found alive, though four remained in critical condition.
Rescuers were focusing their efforts along a stretch of road near a cliff where dozens of houses were reportedly buried by the landslide, Muhari said.
“Along this road, there are around 30 houses that were buried. This is our focal point of the search,” he said.
Muhari added 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 four 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.