Landslides Wreak Havoc in Indonesia

Landslide in Nganjuk Regency, Indonesia
Results of a landslide in Nganjuk Regency, Indonesia, in 2021. (Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Jim Brace-Thompson

In early April 2021, torrential rains from a tropical cyclone unleashed flash floods and mudslides that devastated parts of eastern Indonesia. Initial reports indicated 41 dead and over 22,000 displaced. As yet another storm system rolled through with still more rains, these numbers escalated with still more mud, debris, and large boulders rolling down from steep mountain slopes and hillsides, cutting power and access to afflicted areas as roads and bridges were swept away.

As of this writing, the death toll had risen to 163, with dozens missing. At least one landslide involved debris from a volcanic eruption last November on the island of Lembata. This alone accounted for 32 dead and nearly three dozen unaccounted for. Rescuers dug frantically by hand, seeking to find and rescue anyone buried in the debris. Per the Associated Press, one survivor was seen screaming, “Please find my father and mother…whatever their condition. We want to bury them with the respect they deserve.” Survivors face further danger in crowded rescue centers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the government has given some families moneys to rent accommodations rather than enter crowded refugee camps.

In addition to flooding and mudslides, the cyclones generated 20-foot tidal surges in the region of Java and Bali. Per some, climate change is exasperating risk to Indonesia from seasonal cyclones that are growing ever more powerful on our planet Earth.

Author: Jim Brace-Thompson

JimBraceThompson Jim began and oversees the AFMS Badge Program for kids, has been inducted into the National Rockhound & Lapidary Hall of Fame within their Education Category, and is the president-elect for the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies.
Contact him at


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