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Dozens Dead as Flash Floods, Landslides Strike West Sumatra in Indonesia

Deadly floods kill 43 in Indonesia’s West Sumatra, leaving 15 missing.

Over the weekend, Indonesia’s West Sumatra province was ravaged by flash floods and mudslides, claiming the lives of at least 43 people, with 15 still missing as rescue efforts continue, authorities reported on Monday.

The catastrophe was triggered by torrential rain on Saturday evening, leading to flash floods, landslides, and the flow of cold lava—a mix of volcanic ash, rock debris, and water, in three districts of West Sumatra province, according to Abdul Malik, chief of the provincial rescue team.

Mount Marapi, one of Sumatra’s most active volcanoes, released cold lava flow, locally known as lahar, exacerbating the disaster. The volcano had erupted in December, claiming more than 20 lives, with subsequent eruptions occurring since then.

Abdul Malik highlighted the ongoing threat posed by cold lava flow and flash floods, especially during nighttime hours. He said, “The heavy rain swept materials such as ash and large rocks from the Marapi volcano. “Cold lava flow and flash floods have always been threats to us recently. But the problem is, it always happens late at night until dawn”.

Despite the challenges, search and rescue operations intensified on Monday, with approximately 400 personnel, including rescuers, police, and military, utilizing at least eight excavators and drones to locate the missing individuals.

The national disaster and management agency, BNPB, reported significant damage, including nearly 200 houses and 72 hectares of land, including vital rice fields. Evacuations were conducted in Agam district, with 159 people seeking refuge in nearby schools.

Footage shared by BNPB depicted the grim aftermath of the disaster, with roads and rice fields submerged in mud, and debris strewn across settlements. Survivors described the suddenness of the flooding, which overwhelmed the area and rendered the situation uncontrollable.

“The flooding was sudden and the river became blocked which resulted in the flow of water everywhere and it was out of control”, said Eko Widodo, a 43-year-old survivor.

Melissa Enoch

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