Indonesia landslides: At least 15 killed and dozens missing after landslide hits Natuna regency

At least 15 people have died in two landslides triggered after six days of torrential rains hit villages on an island in Indonesia’s remote Natuna regency.

Rescuers were still searching on Tuesday for 42 missing people trapped in about 27 houses that were buried under the mud after the landslides, said disaster officials.

They had occured on Monday on the island of Serasan, which is home to about 8,000 people.

Dozens of soldiers, police and volunteers are searching in the Genting and Pangkalan villages on a remote island surrounded by choppy waters and high waves in the Natuna group at the edge of the South China Sea.

Natuna’s disaster agency said on its website that rescuers pulled eight injured people from the landslides, four of whom were in critical condition and were rushed to a hospital in Pontianak city on Borneo island, about 285km away.

More than 1,200 people have been displaced and taken to evacuation centers.

Authorities are still collecting information about the full scale of casualties and damage in the affected areas, said National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari.

“The number of fatalities might change at any time. Of 15 fatalities, 10 bodies had been retrieved,” he was quoted as saying by Germany’s public broadcaster Deutsche Walle.

He said two helicopters and several vessels carrying rescuers and relief supplies, including tents, blankets, food and medical teams, departed from Jakarta and nearby islands.

“Distribution of relief supplies has been difficult because the injured and displaced are spread out and hard to reach,” Mr Muhari said.

Seasonal rains and high tides in recent days have caused dozens of landslides and widespread flooding across much of Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains close to rivers.

In November 2022, a landslide triggered by a 5.6-magnitude earthquake killed at least 335 people in West Java’s Cianjur city, about a third of them children.

Indonesia, a nation of over 270 million people, is prone to natural disasters such as frequent earthquakes. This is because it falls under the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, where different tectonic plates meet and create frequent seismic activity.

Additional reporting from agencies

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