Nina A. Loasana, Jakarta – Heavy rainfall and unstable soil caused a series of landslides in Sumedang, West Java, on Saturday, claiming the lives of at least 19 people and injuring 18 others.
Among the deceased were search and rescue and local administration officials who had been working to evacuate survivors of the disaster.
The first landslide occurred at around 4 p.m. when a 20-meter cliff in Cihanjuang village, Cimanggung district, Sumedang regency collapsed and buried 14 houses.
"Around 12 people were inside the houses," Sumedang Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Ayi Rusmana said on Saturday, as quoted by kompas.com.
When a search and rescue team was evacuating the victims from the buried houses, another landslide happened at 6:30 p.m. at the same location. According to National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) records from Sunday morning, at least 11 rescuers and bystanders were buried in the second landslide.
BNPB spokesperson Raditya Jati said the rescue personnel had managed to recover eight bodies from the first incident and 11 others from the second one as of Sunday at 8:22 a.m.
Among those who died were Cimanggung District Military Commander Capt. Inf. Setio Pribadi and Sumedang BPBD emergency and logistic department head Yedi.
"Three people were heavily injured and 15 others sustained minor injuries," Raditya said in a statement.
The local disaster agency evacuated 150 residents from the area following the disasters.
BNPB head Doni Monardo said the central government had given Rp 1 billion (US70,847) for the disaster response operation to Sumedang Regent Dony Ahmad Munir. He added that the government would compensate residents whose homes had been damaged in the incident.
Doni urged residents not to return to their homes until authorities finished their landslide hazard assessment.
"[After the evaluation], people who initially resided in the red zone [high-risk area] must be willing to leave their homes and be relocated to another place," Doni said. "The Sumedang administration will provide the area for the relocation."
According to the BNPB's "InaRISK" mobile application, around 60,000 hectares of land across 26 districts in Sumedang are classified as having a moderate to high risk of landslides.
The national disaster agency urged Sumedang residents and the general public to remain alert of possible hydrometeorological disasters, such as flooding, landslides and tornadoes, in the coming days
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has forecast heavy rainfall and thunderstorms for most parts of the country in the next seven days. It stated that most of Indonesia would see the peak of the rainy season in January and February.
BMKG meteorology deputy Guswanto said that large parts of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Bali, Sulawesi and Papua would face extreme weather conditions in the coming days.
"These extreme conditions potentially lead to hydrometeorological disasters, such as floods, landslides and high sea waves," Guswanto said in a recent statement.