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Landslides leave 5 dead, 8 missing in Batang Toru, Indonesia

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Several landslides hit the Batang Toru hydropower plant area in Marancar, the South Tapanuli District of North Sumatra, Indonesia, on Thursday, April 29, 2021. Five fatalities have been reported, while eight others are still missing as of Monday, May 3, 2021.

Landslides occurred in the area due to heavy rainfall, according to the disaster agency BNPB. 

Two buildings, a vehicle, and 13 people were buried in the rubble. Five of the victims have been found dead, while eight others remain missing. 

Toto Mulyono, head of the Medan SAR Office, said 10 of the victims were from the same family. Three others are still unidentified.

As of Monday, search and rescue operations are ongoing.

The incident has also raised concerns over the safety of the hydropower plant site, which has been pointed out by conservationists for its potential harm to orangutan species. It is the only known habitat of the critically endangered Tapanuli in Sumatra.

This was not the first time that the China-backed project was hit by disaster. In December 2020, a series of landslides hit the area, sweeping away a local who was operating an excavator to clean up an earlier landslide. 

A database managed by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources shows that the site is an area with a medium to high risk of landslides due to hilly terrain and poor drainage.

Featured image credit: BNPB

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