March 13, 2023
JAKARTA – Communication lines have started to recover on Serasan island, Natuna, Riau Islands, after a landslide in the remote region that killed at least 30 people also damaged communication infrastructure, hindering evacuation efforts.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Suharyanto said some progress had been made including the restoration of a number of communication lines on the third day of the mitigation response.
He said that national telecommunications providers had repaired their base transceiver towers (BTS) on the island and that they had been operating since Thursday afternoon.
“All communication devices are online now. Five BTS towers have resumed operations. The BNPB is also providing two satellite phones while [Natuna] Korem [military command] and Mabesad [Indonesian Army Headquarters] are providing five satellite phones that can be used [for emergencies],” Suharyanto said in a statement on Thursday.
However, a main road on the island was still cut off because of landslide debris, which had not been fully cleaned up because of volatile weather and occasional rain. Suharyanto said that when the road was cleared from the debris, electricity lines would also start to be repaired as seven electricity poles fell during the landslide.
The landslide on Serasan Island, 80 kilometers off the coast of Kalimantan and part of the Natuna Islands chain, occurred on Monday following six days of heavy rain.
Evacuation efforts still continue to search for the bodies of victims killed by the landslide and those who are still missing.
According to the BNPB, as of Thursday, 30 bodies had been recovered and identified, while at least 24 people were still missing.
Suharyanto said following the landslide, the Natuna regency administration would relocate as many as 100 families from their old houses to new locations, with the Public Works and Housing Ministry building the new houses for the relocated families, which the BNPB would fully fund.
Following the landslide, as many as 1,300 residents evacuated to shelters closer to the coast, namely the Serasan border post (PLBN), a Serasan community health center (Puskesmas), Al-Furqon Mosque and Senior High School (SMA) 1 Serasan building.
From Jakarta, the BNPB also sent a logistic aid package for the landslide victims while dozens of search and rescue personnel from the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police have also been dispatched to Serasan island to aid evacuation efforts.
The BNPB has provided an emergency fund (DSP) of Rp 1 billion (US$64,773) to the Natuna regency administration for landslide disaster mitigation efforts.
The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said there was still land that could potentially be dislodged should there be heavy rain in the area. The disaster agency previously said the landslide was estimated to have been 100-200 meters long.