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Indonesia searches for 35 still missing in deadly Sumatra floods

JAKARTA — The search for 35 people who are still missing from flash floods and mud slides in Indonesia's West Sumatra province continued on May 15, authorities said, as the death toll from the weekend disaster rose to 58.

Heavy rain on Saturday (May 11) evening triggered flash floods, landslides, and cold lava flow — a mud-like mixture of volcanic ash, rock debris and water — in three districts and one town in West Sumatra province. By May 14, the death toll was at 52.

The cold lava flow, known by the Indonesian word lahar, came from Mount Marapi, one of Sumatra's most active volcanoes. More than 20 people were killed when Marapi erupted in December. A series of eruptions have followed since.

The national disaster and management agency BNPB will focus the search for the missing people in areas near rivers and clean the main roads from the large rocks, debris, mud brought by the floods, its head Suharyanto said in a statement on May 15.

Video shared by BNPB showed logs, rocks and mud strewn over roads in Tanah Datar district, with some collapsed bridges and houses.

Residents helped by local rescuers, police and military were cleaning houses and mosques from mud. In some settlements, excavators were deployed to remove large rocks and trees.

At least 249 houses, 225ha of land, including rice fields, 19 bridges and most of main roads were damaged in three districts and one town.

Indonesia's meteorology agency BMKG said it planned to try to mitigate heavy rainfall expected for the next week in West Sumatra by "cloud seeding" to prevent rains in the worst affected areas.

Widely used in Indonesia, cloud seeding involves shooting salt flares into clouds to trigger rainfall in dry areas.

Indonesia floods, landslides kill 28, 4