Indonesia: Landslides hit Central Java, Yogyakarta, killing three

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Slamet Susanto and Suherdjoko

Landslides hit several areas in Central Java amid the current rainy season, while in Yogyakarta three sand miners were buried alive Friday in a similar disaster.

The three miners were killed in Glagaharjo subdistrict, Yogyakarta, while quarrying sand from Mt. Merapi, when an embankment of the Gendol River fell on them.

The three were identified as Murtini, 40, Suranto, 46, and his wife Ngatimen. All were residents of Glagahharjo, Sleman regency.

"They were busy with sand mining work when the steep embankment suddenly fell on them," Giyanto of Sleman Search and Rescue (SAR) team said Friday.

Giyanto added that the 50-meter-high embankment had been affected rainfall for several days prior to the accident, which occured at around 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

The SAR team, with help from local residents, spent more than two hours retrieving the bodies of the victims manually, heavy equipment was feared to cause further landslides on other parts of the river.

Glagahharjo subdistrict administration chief Suroto said many residents earned a living by quarrying sand from rivers on the slopes of the volcano, which was prone to landslides during the rainy season.

Suroto said his administration had continually warned residents of the dangers involved in quarrying sand, and had told them to avoid creating cavities on the steep banks of the river.

"As it turns out, this particular steep embankment had once been quarried by other sand miners, making it prone to landslides," Suroto said.

The Friday disaster was not the first to hit the area. Previously, two sand miners were buried to death while working on the river.

However, Suroto said he could do nothing about the problem except to continue to remind the workers to be careful, because sand quarrying was one of the main sources of income for the local community.

Separately, in Central Java, landslides hit a number of areas across the province including in Brebes regency.

At least two houses were severely damaged when a 4-meter-high embankment fell onto them, in Karangpari subdistrict, Brebes, very early on Friday morning, after several hours of heavy rain.

In Blora regency, strong winds reportedly damaged a teak forest on Tuesday, causing almost 15,000 trees to fall.

Imam Fuji Raharjo, the administrator of state-plantation company PT Perhutani in Cepu, Blora, said the disaster, which was estimated to have cost Rp 7.49 billion in losses, was the worst to hit the region for past 50 years. Following the storm, the Blora-Cepu route was at a standstill for the whole day on Friday.

At least 400 fallen trees along the route were dragged to piling sites in Pasar Sore and Cepu.