39 confirmed dead, 69 still missing in Indonesian landslide – official
Torrential downpours triggered the landslide in Jemblung village in central Java late Friday, burying more than a hundred houses.
Over the weekend, hundreds of rescuers dug through the mud with shovels and their bare hands in a desperate hunt for any survivors.
"I am very worried," a sobbing Sutinem, whose 12 family members including her children were buried in the landslide, told Agence France-Presse.
The 45-year-old said so far only the body of her mother had been found. She was not at the village when the landslide hit as she was working in west Java.
"I was shocked to see that my village was flattened to the ground... I pray that the government will find them quickly," she said.
"We are trying our best to look (for) those still buried. It's a big challenge because we are still using manual tools and the affected area is very muddy," military official Edi Rahmatullah told reporters Sunday.
Chances of finding survivors slim
Provincial search and rescue agency chief Agus Haryono said rescue efforts have been slow because the ground was still unstable.
"The affected area is a large valley surrounded by hills. The soil is loose and muddy so we have to be very careful when digging to prevent more landslides," he said, adding that sniffer dogs were being deployed to detect bodies.
"The chances of finding anyone alive at this point is slim, but who knows? We just hope and pray that we can find survivors," he told Agence France-Presse.
Authorities were using heavy equipment to clear a three-meter high pile of fallen trees and rubble on the main road leading to the site of the disaster.
"Today (Sunday) the search for survivors will be carried out using heavy excavation equipment. The landslide has blocked road access since yesterday," BNPB spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
"Part of the road has now been cleared," he added.
Around 1,250 rescuers, including police, soldiers and volunteers were involved in the search operations.
Survivors need food and medicine
Fifteen people were injured, including 11 seriously, and 577 people were evacuated to temporary shelters, Nugroho said.
"Many of (the survivors) were injured from being hit by debris and are being treated in hospital," he said, adding that survivors were in need of food, blankets, and medicines.
President Joko Widodo, who arrived in Central Java's provincial district of Banjarnegara on Sunday, stressed the need to speed up rescue efforts.
"Earlier I visited the landslide site in Banjarnegara to look at the situation there. Although logistical support has been provided, the evacuation process must be strengthened and hastened," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Prone to landslides
"I urge Indonesians to be vigilant as there are hundreds of locations around us which are prone to landslides," he added.
Landslides triggered by heavy rains and floods are common in tropical Indonesia during the rainy season.
The national disaster agency estimates around half the country's population of 250 million lives in areas prone to landslides.
The vast Indonesian archipelago is one of the most natural-disaster-prone nations, and is also frequently hit by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com