Indonesian floods, landslides leave 47 dead, dozens missing

Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency said most of those killed or missing are from the Puworejo district, on Java’s south coast.

JAKARTA, (Indonesia) — At least 47 people have been killed by landslides and floods on Indonesia’s Java island and many others are missing, an official said Sunday.

Dozens of houses were buried in the landslides and thousands of homes were inundated by floods in 16 districts and towns in Central Java province over the weekend.

The landslides buried dozens of homes, and floodwaters inundated thousands of houses, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the Indonesian Disaster Management Agency. Thousands of residents have been evacuated to safer areas after torrential rains caused flash floods and landslides.

Search and rescue teams on the ground are focused on looking for those missing. There are more than 200 personnel from the national search and rescue agency, the army, police and volunteers from the community.

Rescuers were using excavators to hunt for survivors in more accessible areas, and in remoter places were digging through debris with their bare hands and shovels.

The districts of Purworejo, Banjarnegara and Kebumen are the hardest-hit areas, and most of the casualties came from there. Sixteen districts and cities have been affected by the disasters since Saturday after hours of heavy downpours. Landslides have also blocked roads that hampered access to the disaster-affected-areas, Sutopo added.

Dr. Sutopo said that a La Nina weather system, that typically causes unseasonably heavy rains, could have contributed to the weekend disasters. Java, which should be entering the dry season, has been hit by torrential downpours in recent weeks.

In one deadly incident, truck passengers tried to clear debris from a small landslide that had blocked the road. Numerous motorcycles were behind the truck when a bigger landslide hit them. Nine people died.

Local authorities have extended help to those whose homes are damaged by temporarily relocating them to another place. Families who have lost loved ones are also given compensation of at least US$150.

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

Seasonal rains often cause flooding and landslides in Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or flood-prone plains close to rivers.

June is usually relatively dry in the region, but the National Climatology, Meteorology and Geophysics Agency has issued a warning for potential rain for late June and early July in five provinces. High tides and waves are also predicted for the southern coast of Sumatra, Java and East Nusa Tenggara.

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