Rescuers searching for more than 80 people missing after a landslide in Indonesia have deployed bulldozers and excavators to battle their way through roads strewn with debris to the site of the tragedy, officials said.
At least 32 people have been confirmed dead as of Sunday after torrential downpours caused the landslide to hit Jemblung village in central Java late on Friday, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson, said.
Hundreds of rescuers on Sunday were also digging through the mud with shovels and their bare hands in a desperate hunt for any survivors.
“We are trying our best to look and evacuate those still buried. It’s a big challenge because we are still using manual tools and the affected area is very muddy,” Edi Rahmatullah, military commander of Banjarnegara district, said.
Authorities were using heavy equipment to clear a three-metre high pile of fallen trees and rubble on the main road leading to the site of the tragedy.
“Today the search for survivors will be carried out using heavy excavation equipment. The landslide has blocked road access since yesterday,” Nugroho said.
“Part of the road has now been cleared.”
About 1,250 rescuers, including police, soldiers and volunteers were involved in the search operations.
‘Trapped under soil’
Nugroho said 20 people were killed and 88 remained missing Sunday, more than 24 hours after the landslide swept down a hillside in the village.
Fifteen people were injured, including 11 seriously, and 577 people were evacuated to temporary shelters, Nugroho said.
“Those who died were trapped under soil,” he said.
“Many of [the survivors] were injured from being hit by debris and are being treated in the hospital.”
Nugroho said survivors were in need of food, blanket, medicine and clothes.
President Joko Widodo was to travel from the capital Jakarta to Banjarnegara on Sunday to meet survivors.
“I am in grief over the landslide that struck Jemblung village,” he wrote on his Facebook page, urging Ganjar Pranowo, Central Java’s governor, to evacuate victims.
“Landslides can be a lesson to us, on the importance of maintaining environmental balance.”
Landslides caused by heavy rains and floods are common in tropical Indonesia during the rainy season.
The National Disaster Management Agency estimates about half the country’s population of 250 million lives in areas prone to landslides.