The Jakarta Post
With search efforts suspended due to heavy rain at least 91 residents remained unaccounted for on Saturday following Friday evening's landslide in an upland area of Sampang subdistrict, Banjarnegara regency, Central Java.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the ground at the site of the disaster was still unstable. 'The rain could lead to more landslides,' Sutopo said.
As of Saturday night, a joint search and rescue team comprising military, police, Red Cross, disaster mitigation agency personnel and volunteers had recovered at least 17 bodies. Restricted access to the affected area also hampered the search-and-rescue operation.
Eleven people have been treated for serious injuries and four for minor injuries.
Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, who visited the scene of the disaster on Saturday, declared disaster emergency status for Banjarnegara.
'With this status, we've ordered the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) quick-response unit to remain and help the local agency in their work,' Ganjar said. He also said that among the most urgently needed equipment in the area were excavators and electric generators.
Banjarnegara 0704 Military District commander Lt. Col. Edi Rahmatullah, who led the rescue efforts on Saturday, said the landslide had covered an area of around 10 hectares in Jemblung hamlet, which had a population of about 300.
'We have identified some 200 survivors. The rest have not yet been located and are feared to be trapped in the landslide,' Edi said.
Separately, Banjarnegara Deputy Regent Hadi Supeno said a series of minor landslides had hit the village since Thursday, with the biggest occurring on Friday evening, almost completely covering Jemblung hamlet in debris.
Emergency assistance could not be promptly delivered because many of the access roads leading to the affected area were blocked by debris.
'We have to reach the affected area by foot. Heavy equipment is slowly being deployed to the site as the access roads are cleared,' Hadi said.
Friday's landslide cut off access to Banjarnegara from neighboring areas located to the east of the regency including Dieng, Wonosobo and Semarang.
'It was very horrifying. We all panicked as if it was doomsday. I don't know if my neighbors survived because their houses have been completely swept away by the landslide,' said one of the survivors, Ahmadi, a resident of Jemblung, as he described what happened.
He said the landslide came down a hill located above his village. 'It happened just before evening prayers at Maghrib. We suddenly heard a thundering sound hitting our village,' Ahmadi said, adding that the collapsed hillside measured some 300 meters high and 100 meters wide.
Friday's landslide was not the first to hit Banjarnegara. Landslides occur almost annually during the rainy season, with the worst being in January 2006 when a landslide hit Sijeruk subdistrict in Banjarmangu district, burying some 240 residents and destroying 102 homes. Only 97 residents survived the Sijeruk disaster.
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