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Rescuers in Desperate Search After Indonesia Flash Floods Leave Over 50 Dead


Rescuers on Tuesday searched in rivers and the rubble of devastated villages for bodies, and whenever possible, survivors of flash floods that hit Indonesia’s Sumatra Island over the weekend. Monsoon rains and a landslide of mud and cold lava from Mount Marapi caused rivers to breach their banks.

The deluge tore through mountainside villages in four districts in West Sumatra province just before midnight Saturday. The floods swept away people and 79 homes and submerged hundreds of houses and buildings, forcing more than 3,300 residents to flee to temporary government shelters, National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said.

Muhari said 50 bodies had been pulled from mud and rivers by Tuesday, mostly in worst-hit Agam and Tanah Datar districts, while rescuers are searching for 27 people who are reportedly missing. Television reports showed rescue personnel using jackhammers, circular saws, farm tools, and sometimes their bare hands, digging desperately in Agam district where roads were transformed into murky brown rivers and villages covered by thick mud, rocks, and uprooted trees.

Rescue Operations in Indonesia

Scores of rescue personnel were searching through a river around the Anai Valley Waterfall area in Tanah Datar district where tons of mud, rocks, and trees were left from flash floods. Rescuers were focused on finding four people from a group of seven that were swept away with their cars. Three other bodies were pulled out on Monday, said Abdul Malik, who heads the Search and Rescue Office in Padang, the provincial capital.

“With many missing and some remote areas still unreachable, the death toll was likely to rise,” Malik said. Heavy rains cause frequent landslides and flash floods in Indonesia, an archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near floodplains.

The weekend disaster came just two months after heavy rains triggered flash floods and a landslide in West Sumatra, killing at least 26 people and leaving 11 others missing. A surprise eruption of Mount Marapi late last year killed 23 climbers. The mountain’s sudden eruptions are difficult to predict because the source is shallow and near the peak, according to Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation. Marapi has been active since an eruption in January 2024 that caused no casualties. It is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia12.

Stay tuned for further updates as rescue efforts continue in the affected regions. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families during this difficult time. 🙏🌊

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