Rescuers hunt for survivors after cyclone kills 119 in Indonesia

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Rescuers searched for dozens missing in the remote islands of southeast Indonesia on Tuesday, as reinforcements arrived to help in the aftermath of a tropical cyclone that killed at least 119 people.

Helicopters were deployed to aid the search, and ships carrying food, water, blankets and medicine reached ports previously blocked by high waves whipped up by tropical cyclone Seroja, which brought heavy rain and triggered deadly floods and landslides on Sunday.

Indonesia’s disaster agency BNPB revised upwards the death toll from the cyclone in the East Nusa Tenggara islands, after earlier saying 86 had died. Seventy-six people were still missing.

“The rescue team is moving on the ground. The weather is good,” BNPB spokesman Raditya Jati told a news briefing.

Search and rescue personnel, however, had trouble transporting heavy equipment for use in the search.

“Search for victims is constrained, the existing heavy equipment cannot be sent to their destination, especially in Adonara and Alor,” the head of BNPB, Doni Monardo, said.

The Adonara and Alor islands were among the islands worst hit by the cyclone, with 62 and 21 people dead respectively.

Aerial images from Adonara on Tuesday showed brown mud and flood water covering a vast area, burying houses, roads and trees.

The military and volunteers arrived on the islands on Tuesday and were setting up public kitchens, while medical workers were brought in.

Video taken by a local official in Tanjung Batu village on Lembata, home to the Ile Lewotolok volcano, showed felled trees and large rocks of cold lava that had crushed homes after being dislodged by the cyclone.

Thousands of people have been displaced, nearly 2,000 buildings including a hospital were impacted, and more than 100 homes heavily damaged by the cyclone.

Two people died in nearby West Nusa Tenggara province.

There were also concerns about possible COVID-19 infections in crowded evacuation centers.

In neighboring East Timor, at least 33 were killed in floods and landslides and by falling trees. Civil defense authorities were using heavy equipment to search for survivors.

“The number of victims could still increase because many victims have not been found,” the main director of civil protection, Ismael da Costa Babo, told Reuters.

“They were buried by landslides and carried away by floods.”

Some residents of Lembata island may have also been washed away by mud into the sea.

A volcano that erupted on Lembata last month wiped out vegetation atop the mountain, which allowed hardened lava to slide towards 300 houses when the cyclone struck, a senior district official said, hoping help was on the way.

“We were only able to search on the seashore, not in the deeper area, because of lack of equipment yesterday,” Thomas Ola Langoday told Reuters by phone.

He feared many bodies were still buried under large rocks.

President Joko Widodo urged his cabinet to speed up evacuation and relief efforts and to restore power.

Weather agency head Dwikorita Karnawati said once-rare tropical cyclones were happening more often in Indonesia and climate change could be to blame.

“Seroja is the first time we’re seeing tremendous impact because it hit the land. It’s not common,” she said.

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Stanley Widianto and Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta and Nelson Da Cruz in Dili; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo and Fathin Ungku; Editing by Martin Petty, Tom Hogue and Bernadette Baum)

Trapped China gold miners get porridge, blankets, one miner in coma – state media

BEIJING (Reuters) – Workers trapped in a Chinese gold mine for more than nine days received more medical and food supplies on Tuesday, including bandages, blankets and porridge, but one of the group is in critical condition with a severe head injury, state media said.

A total of 22 workers were left trapped in the Hushan mine, in Shandong province, after an explosion on Jan. 10. A week later, it emerged that at least 12 of them were still alive as a note retrieved from the mine said: “We hope the rescue won’t stop.”

A drilled channel on Sunday located 11 of the miners, who were working more than 600 meters underground, and rescuers were subsequently able to speak to them via wired telephone.

The official Xinhua news agency said the miners had requested on Monday evening sausage and pickles as well as porridge but medical experts decided they should not eat hard food having only just regained their strength.

Fortified by the food and medical supplies – the fourth consignment to reach the group – two workers who had previously been very weak were able to walk again on Tuesday, Xinhua reported, citing a member of the rescue team.

However, the People’s Daily said one worker was in a coma, in critical condition, after sustaining a head injury in the blast, while two were “mildly unwell” and eight in good health.

One more worker has been located in another section of the mine, while the whereabouts of the other 10 remain unknown.

News that some of the miners are still alive has boosted Chinese netizens’ hopes for a miraculous escape, with thousands leaving prayer messages on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform and calling on the authorities to “please speed up the rescue”.

China’s National Mine Safety Administration has ordered a comprehensive inspection of the country’s non-coal mines, which will run until the end of March, the People’s Daily reported.

There are 32,000 non-coal mines in China, most of which are small, use outdated technology and equipment, and have poor safety management it said, citing an administration official.

(Reporting by Beijing bureau; Editing by Gareth Jones)