Basic tools used in search for landslide victims

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Arya Dipa, The Jakarta Post, Bandung | Archipelago | Tue, March 26 2013, 10:23 AM

Search and rescue (SAR) teams looking for 11 of the 17 landslide victims in Nagrok hamlet, Muka Payung village, Cililin district in West Bandung regency, West Java, cannot use heavy machinery due to difficult terrain, says the West Java Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head.

“Currently, rescuers are using basic tools, such as hoes and spades,” West Java BPBD head Sigit Udjwalaprana said on Monday.

The landslide is situated on a slope of between 40 and 45 degrees. A large area of the location was used by residents to cultivate crops, he added.

As many as 17 people were buried by the landslide that took place at 5:30 a.m. on Monday. “We have found six people,” said Sigit.

Based on resident accounts, the landslide was triggered by heavy rain in the area. “It was still raining heavily as of 1 a.m.,” he said.

Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) soil movement investigator Yunara D. Triyana said landslides taking place in an area with a medium potency of soil movement were usually triggered by high rainfall, while landslides occurring in areas with a high potency of soil movement could be triggered by rainfall and reactivate soil movement.

“We sent a report on the potential of soil movement to the provincial administration in early March,” said Yunara.

Yunara said most parts of West Bandung regency were prone to medium and high soil movements. The PVMBG recorded 10 landslides in Cililin between 2001 and 2013.

“The disaster claiming the highest number of victims was in Kidang Pananjung, in which 15 people were killed and 15 people injured,” added Yunara.

The landslide was triggered by loose soil conditions and soil that easily absorbed the rain. In the event of heavy rain, the soil moved and caused a landslide.

To anticipate repeat landslides, Yunara urged residents and rescue workers to set up a post in a safe location. As long as there were heaps of soil on the peaks of slopes, landslides could occur, he said, and added that rescue efforts should be halted during rainfall.

As of March 2013, the PVMBG recorded 35 landslides that killed 65 people across the country.

“Eighteen victims died in landslides in West Java, excluding those in Nagrok hamlet,” said Yunara.

Sigit said the search for victims buried in Nagrok would continue for the next seven days, using basic tools.