Death toll in Indonesian power plant landslide rises to 10

Rescuers searching for survivors on May 4, 2021, after a landslide struck a hydropower plant in North Sumatra. PHOTO: AFP

MEDAN, INDONESIA (AFP) - The death toll from a landslide at a hydroelectric dam project on Indonesia's Sumatra island has risen to 10, an official said on Thursday (May 6), as the authorities called off a week-long search for victims.

A landslide triggered by heavy rains struck the Chinese-backed Batang Toru hydropower plant on April 29, burying an estimated 13 people.

Employees were checking on the area over concerns that heavy rains could trigger landslides when the disaster struck.

At least two children are among the victims. The body of a Chinese employee of the plant was identified on Wednesday.

Another Chinese employee narrowly escaped as he fled the scene.

Local disaster mitigation agency head Hotmatua Rambe told AFP that the search for the victims had ended after unearthing 10 bodies. Three victims remain missing.

The Batang Toru hydropower project - part of China's trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure project - has raised opposition as it is built in an area of rainforest that is the only known habitat of the endangered Tapanuli orangutan.

Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the country during the rainy season.

Last month, more than 200 people were killed in a cluster of far-eastern islands and neighbouring Timor-Leste as Tropical Cyclone Seroja turned small communities into wastelands of mud and uprooted trees.

Indonesia's disaster agency estimates that 125 million people - nearly half of the country's population - live in areas at risk of landslides.

The disasters are often caused by deforestation and poor mitigation planning, according to environmentalists.

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