Rusman, Bekasi – The search for more victims of the huge dump slide east of Jakarta continued Saturday, but the death toll remained at three, with around 20 more people still thought to be missing.
Police have begun investigating the cause of the incident, which occurred on Friday morning at Bekasi's Bantar Gebang dump and injured five others.
Dedi, a scavenger, said he believed many of his peers were buried in the pile. "I saw dozens of people working when the trash collapsed. Their bodies were covered by the waste," he told The Jakarta Post.
Police said it was difficult to confirm the number of scavengers working at the site because none had legal documents. The dump operator, PT Patriot Bangkit Bekasi, has sent eight earth movers to the area to help with the search.
Bekasi Police chief Sr. Comr. Chairul Anwar said police had questioned four witnesses, including a truck driver and a dump operator staffer, over the incident. "We have yet to name any suspects," he said Saturday.
The trash slide took place in the eight-hectare Zone 3 of the dump early Friday morning. Three scavengers, Marsinah, 40, Miswan, 17, and Sonif, 30, were killed in the slide.
Four of the injured victims – Samudi, Adi, Rasnoto and Wastono – left Bekasi Hospital Saturday, while the fifth, Yana, was still being treated for her injuries at Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital.
A lawyer representing the dump operator insisted the incident was a "natural disaster". M. Jaya Butar Butar said a layer of soil had been applied over every two meters of rubbish as was legally required.
"It is purely a natural disaster. However, we will provide compensation to the victim's families," he said after accompanying his client during police questioning.
Around 6,000 tons of Jakarta's daily waste is dumped in the landfill at Bantar Gebang. The Jakarta administration pays Bekasi city a management fee of US$5.60 a ton for use of the dump.
Last year, Jakarta introduced a high-tech waste management facility in Bojong, Bogor, to reduce its dependency on Bantar Gebang, but local residents opposed to the site forced its closure.