Indonesia resumes rescue work as landslide death toll rises

At least 15 people die in landslides triggered by heavy rain, in the latest disaster to hit Indonesia.

    The death toll from a landslide triggered by heavy rain in Indonesia's West Java province has risen to at least 15 people as rescue workers found more bodies while digging through muddy soil that buried dozens of houses up to their roofs.

    Search operations in Sirnaresmi village in Sukabumi district resumed on Wednesday after being halted a day earlier due to bad weather.

    Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesperson for Indonesia's disaster management agency, said in a statement late on Tuesday that rescuers were searching for 20 villagers believed to have been buried in the landslides, which hit 30 houses shortly before sunset on Monday.

    Of 101 people affected, 63 are safe and three were injured, Nugroho said.

    "There have been four more landslides with less amount of soil. The unstable soil poses a danger to rescuers especially when it rains hard," he added.

    Sirnaresmi village is located in a hilly zone prone to landslides. According to data from Indonesia's volcano and geological disaster mitigation agency, there are 33 sub-districts in Sukabumi situated in areas with medium to high risks of landslides.

    Disaster-prone Indonesia

    Landslides are common in Indonesia, a vast Southeast Asian tropical archipelago prone to natural disasters and torrential downpours. 

    The latest landslide meant that Indonesia, which straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide, ended the year with 2,564 disasters of various sorts.

    They included devastating tsunamis that hit Central Sulawesi in September killing thousands, and Lampung and Banten just before Christmas that claimed the lives of more than 400 people.

    Meanwhile, Lombok island was rocked by powerful earthquakes in the summer that killed more than 500.

    Nugroho said disasters in 2018 killed 3,349 people, displaced 10.2 million, injured more than 21,000, damaged more than 319,000 houses and left some 1,432 people unaccounted for.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies