Camelia Pasandaran, Dessy Sagita & Nurfika Osman
Ciwidey, Bandung. Vice President Boediono, visiting the site of a major landslide in Ciwidey in the West Java district of Bandung, on Wednesday said the local government should be ready for similar disasters and relocate people living in high-risk areas in the province.
“The governor and district heads should anticipate which plantations are prone to landslides,” Boediono said in Tenjolaya village, where a rain-triggered landslide is believed to have buried scores of people.
“We need to warn people about the areas [prone to landslides]. In the long run, they need to be relocated to a safer place,” Boediono said, noting that the rainy season was far from over.
On Wednesday, a day after the landslide buried one of four settlements within the Dewata tea plantation in the hilly subdistrict of Pasirjambu, rescue teams had so far recovered 16 bodies, said Priyadi Kardono, the spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).
Dede Yusuf, deputy governor of West Java, said residents have been ordered to vacate the area in Ciwidey as a new fissure in the ground could lead to more landslides.
“We have relocated some of the people, but I want all residents to be out of this area as soon as possible before the hills slide down again,” he said. “With the new crack and the heavy downpour, there may be another landslide.”
Dede said he has demanded that the Dewata tea plantation halt operation until further notice, with a permanent closure of the estate being considered.
BNPB chief Wisnu Wijaya said West Java was one of the most disaster-prone provinces.
“Fifty percent of landslide cases in the country occurred in this province. Last year’s giant earthquake surely affected the solidity of the soil in the province,” Wisnu said, referring to the 7.3-magnitude earthquake that rocked many districts of West Java in September.
“The structure of the soil has become more fragile, causing the province to be more vulnerable to landslides.”
Wisnu said that besides earthquakes, rain and flooding added to the risk of landslides in the province.
Hary Tirto, head of the public information subdivision at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), said moderate to heavy rain would continue to fall in the area until the end of the week.
BNPB surveys have designated at least eight of the province’s 17 districts as both earthquake-prone and at high risk of soil movement. They are the densely populated districts of Bandung, West Bandung, Bogor, Ciamis, Cianjur, Garut, Sukabumi and Tasikmalaya.
Priyadi said search teams were still combing the area to look for survivors or victims and that at least 200 people had lost their homes in the landslides.
“We estimate that there are 60 or 70 more victims still buried under the mud even though officially only 29 persons have been reported missing,” he said.
The vice president’s office brought with him relief aid including Rp 200 million ($21,500) in cash, 25 tents, 500 blankets,
100 sets of kitchen tools and 100 mattresses.