More bodies found after flash floods in Indonesia

Rescuers recovered more bodies Monday after monsoon rains triggered flash floods on the Indonesian island of Sumatra over the weekend, sending down torrents of cold lava and mud that killed at least 44 dead and 15 others missing.

Heavy rains, along with a landslide of mud and cold lava from Mount Marapi, caused a river to overflow. The deluge ravaged mountainous villages in four districts of West Sumatra province shortly before midnight Saturday.

The floods swept away people and submerged hundreds of homes and buildings, while forcing more than 3,100 people to flee to temporary government shelters in Agam and Tanah Datar districts, the spokesperson said. National Disaster Management Agency, Abdul Muhari.


Cold lava, also known as lahar, is a mixture of volcanic material and pebbles swept by rainwater down the slopes of a volcano.

Additional bodies were found Monday, bringing the death toll to 44, Muhari told a news conference. At least 19 other people were injured in the flash floods and rescuers were searching for 15 villagers, he said.

Television reports showed relatives crying as they watched rescuers remove a mud-covered body from a devastated hamlet. He was placed in an orange and black bag and taken away for burial.

People inspect buildings damaged by a flash flood in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia.

People inspect buildings damaged by a flash flood in Agam, West Sumatra, Indonesia, May 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Fachri Hamzah)

Authorities have struggled to get tractors and other heavy equipment to the region on destroyed roads after flash floods covered the hilly hamlets with mud and rocks, said Abdul Malik, who heads the research bureau and rescue in Padang, the provincial capital.

Hundreds of police, soldiers and residents sifted through the debris with their hands, shovels and hoes, as rain, damaged roads and thick mud hampered their progress.

“The devastated area is so large and complex that we absolutely need more excavators and mud pumps,” Malik said.

Videos released by the National Search and Rescue Agency showed roads turned into murky brown rivers and villages covered in thick mud, rocks and uprooted trees.

Muhari said the search and rescue operation was halted on Monday evening due to darkness and rains which left devastated areas along the rivers unstable. The operation will resume early Tuesday.

Heavy rains cause frequent landslides and flash floods in Indonesia, an archipelago 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 close to the summit, according to the Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation.

Marapi has been active since an eruption in January 2024 which caused no casualties. It is one of more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia. The country is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific basin.


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