Indonesia’s Central Java governor Ganjar Prawano has declared a three-month state of emergency after deadly mudslides swept through the Karangkobar, Banjarnegara district. The landslide has killed at least 18 people, and has buried dozens more.
Govenor Prawano’s declaration means that the military police, and Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) will work together with the local administration to organize and direct the continued emergency operations during the three-month period. When he visited the devastated area on Saturday, Mr. Prawano said, “Maximum evacuation must be made to search for the missing people.”
At this stage rescuers have removed 18 bodies from the mud, however it is believed that more than 100 are still missing. Previous reports had stated the death toll at 17 with 90 missing, however the landslide has moved through several villages causing officials to reassess the potential number of people buried in the mud. Banjarnegara military district chief Lt. Col. Edi Rohmatulloh said that in the Gerumbul Jemblung Village only 200 out of the 300 people population had been accounted for.
The local emergency workers have quickly established numerous temporary housing tents for the survivors who’s homes have been destroyed, as well as several management posts from which rescue operations are being implemented. Local residents have been urged by the governor to cooperate with the evacuation teams and to help repair the roads leading into the affected area. However operations are difficult as the possibility of further slides remains.
Indonesia’s three month emergency was declared immediately after the deadly mudslide in an effort to expedite rescue operations. As the search has been intensified, Mr Prawano said the intention was that the “disaster’s social impact could be dealt with well.” Friday’s mudslide was the second the second to hit Central Java in two days. An earlier slide on Thursday killed at least one person and caused more than 300 people to flee their homes in Indonesia’s Wonosobo District.
According to BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, rescue operations have been hampered by the rugged terrain and continued heavy rains, as well as a lack of sufficient heavy equipment. Rescuers have been reported have dug with hoes, shovels and bare hands in their efforts to free the trapped villagers. Nugroho told The New York Times that rescue teams were joined by local health department staff and civilian volunteers as they scoured the site for the missing villagers.
Distraught family members claimed to have heard relatives calling for help but were unable to provide sufficient assistance during the night. One resident who escaped the slide with his family, told reporters they heard the roar before fleeing from a “rain of red soil.” It is believed at least 105 houses were swept away as the tide of mud and rock drove through the communities.
Currently in Indonesia, seasonal rains are combining with high tides to cause frequent landslides across the islands which are inhabited by around 17,000 people. Here the monsoon season typically runs from October through to April, during which time landslides are common. Governor Pranowo’s imposed three-month emergency, which was declared after the most recent and deadly mudslides, will remain in force for the majority of this time.
By Monica Grant
Photo By U.S. Embassy Jakarta – Flickr Page