Tue, 08 Mar 2005

137 bodies recovered in dump evacuation

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

Evacuation of landslide victims at the Leuwigajah dump site in south Cimahi and Bandung regency ended on Monday, with 137 bodies being recovered and six more being left buried in the 25-hectare area affected by the disaster.

The search and rescue operation ended after 15 days, with the agreement of Bandung Regent Obar Sobarna, local administrations, the National Search and Rescue (SAR) body, relatives of the victims and the Indonesian Ulema Council.

"All parties have agreed to stop the operation because it's gone beyond tolerable psychological limits of the search and rescue team, and also because more than 75 percent of the victims have been recovered," Bandung-Cimahi district military chief, Lt. Col. Achmad Syaefudin, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Four volunteers reportedly fainted recently, allegedly from the effects of methane gas, while working to recover bodies from the mountains of garbage that collapsed on Feb. 21 flattening 70 houses in two villages.

Bandung Regent Obar Sobarna said the regental administration was still trying to find a place to relocate around 180 families living in the disaster area.

But he declined to provide details on the amount of money set aside for the relocation plan. "Some residents have asked for compensation and want to move to places of their own choice, so we'll have to do the calculations first," he said.

Cimahi Major Itoch Tochya said his administration has set aside Rp 50 billion (US$5.3 million) to relocate residents wanting to move from the dump site area.

"Only two families living in our part of the dump site (Cimahi) were victims," Itoch said. "If their neighbors want to be relocated, we'll prepare the money."

Meanwhile, West Java Governor Danny Setiawan has signed an MOU with a Malaysian investor to integrate the waste management systems of five regencies and municipalities in Bandung.

Called the Greater Bandung Waste Management Project, the dump will manage garbage from the Bandung regency and municipality, Cimahi mayoralty, Sumedang regency and Garut regency using sanitary landfill systems and sophisticated technology.

Two locations -- Cijeruk and Cirawamekar in Bandung regency -- have been determined as candidate locations for the integrated dump site.

"The investor will build the integrated dump site by 2006," Danny said on Monday.