Casualties continue to mount at PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI)’s Big Gossan training facility in Timika, Papua, as eight more bodies were evacuated between Sunday evening and Monday evening.
The five victims evacuated were identified as Artinus Magal, Retno Arung Bone, Ma’mur, Petrus Marangkena and Petrus Padak Duli, said PTFI corporate communications vice president Daisy Primayanti in a press statement.
Three other bodies evacuated on Monday evening were identified as Frelthon Wantalangi, Joni Michael Ugadje and Munthadim Ahmad.
“This brings total fatalities to 17 with 11 still unaccounted for as of 6 p.m. Jakarta time,” Daisy said in the statement.
She added that 200 rescue workers from PTFI’s joint emergency response team had been deployed to continue search and rescue efforts.
The Big Gossan training facility collapsed on May 15, initially trapping 38 workers inside a tunnel during a safety course.
Since the search and rescue operation has been under way, 10 workers have been rescued. Five of them were airlifted to Jakarta and another five are being treated at Tembagupura Hospital.
All victims have been handed over to their relatives.
The remains of Joni Tulak, who was found on Saturday evening, and of Aris Tikupasang, who was found on Sunday evening, were flown to Tana Toraja via Makassar in South Sulawesi while the body of Viktor Sanger, also found on Sunday morning, as well as Retno Arung Bone and Ma’mur were flown to Makassar.
The remains of Petrus Marangkena and Hengki Hendambo, who were found on Sunday evening, were flown to Papua’s provincial capital, Jayapura, while Artinus Magal was buried in Banti village in Timika.
The body of Petrus Padak Tuli is still in Timika and is scheduled to be flown to East Nusa Tenggara.
PTFI has ceased all production activities, only caring out maintenance work, since the evacuation process started.
Meanwhile, Antara news agency reported from Jakarta that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had ordered an investigation to find out what caused the landslide.
“We all know that companies such as Freeport have good systems in place but because of the disaster, we will carry out an investigation to find the cause of the incident,” he said from the Presidential Office on Monday.
He added that the investigation was expected to serve as a way to learn how to prevent such disaster from occurring again.
“This will become a valuable lesson for all of us on how to maintain occupational safety and health,” he said.
The President also asked all relevant ministries to review safety in the mining industry.
He underscored the importance of monitoring occupational safety and health to ensure the well-being of workers.
The President also said the government was committed to helping PTFI evacuate victims still trapped in the landslide.
He also compared the Big Gossan accident to another mining accident that recently took place in Chile.
Yudhoyono said that Chilean workers were trapped in a space in which they were able to survive with the available logistics while workers in the Freeport accident were buried by a collapsed mine ceiling.
The President also claimed he had established direct contact with officials from Freeport and the National SAR Agency who were working in the field. He quoted the field officers saying that the evacuation process was expected to be completed in the next one or two days.