Indonesia seeds clouds to block rainfall after floods killed at least 59 people

15 May 2024, 14:34

Indonesia Flash Floods
Indonesia Flash Floods. Picture: PA

The deluge tore through mountainside villages in four districts in West Sumatra province.

Indonesian authorities have seeded clouds, trying to prevent further rain and flash floods after deluges that hit the country’s Sumatra Island over the weekend left at least 59 people dead and another 16 missing.

Monsoon rains triggered a landslide of mud and cold lava from Mount Marapi, eventually causing rivers to breach their banks.

The deluge tore through mountainside villages in four districts in West Sumatra province just before midnight on Saturday.

The floods swept away people and 79 homes and submerged hundreds of houses and buildings, forcing more than 1,500 families to flee to temporary government shelters, according to National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari.

Indonesia Flash Floods
Damage at a village affected by a flash flood in Agam, West Sumatra (Sutan Malik Kayo/AP)

He said that 59 bodies had been pulled from mud and rivers by Wednesday, mostly in the worst-hit Agam and Tanah Datar districts, while rescuers are searching for 16 people who are reportedly missing. About 33 villagers were injured.

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency head Dwikorita Karnawati has said that more downpours were forecast for West Sumatra in the coming days, and the danger of extreme rainfall would continue until next week.

Mr Karnawati said an air force plane was sent up to shoot salt flares into the clouds on Wednesday, in an attempt to get the clouds to release water and break up before they reach the devastated areas in Agam, Tanah Datar, Padang Panjang, Padang Pariaman as well as Padang city, the provincial capital.

The method is known as cloud seeding and creates precipitation, thereby modifying weather.

Indonesia’s air force teamed up with the country’s technology agency to carry out three rounds of cloud seeding on Wednesday, Mr Karnawati said, adding that more would take place as needed.

About 15 tons of salt have been prepared for Wednesday’s action.

Indonesia’s technology agency, known as BPPT, said in a statement that all rain clouds moving towards the four West Sumatra’s districts will be shot with sodium chloride, or salt.

“We are deploying weather modification technology starting tomorrow so that rain does not fall during this emergency response period,” National Disaster Management Agency chief Suharyanto, who goes by a single name like many Indonesians, told reporters on Tuesday.

He spoke while visiting the district of Agam and said that the emergency response will end on May 25.

A search operation was under way on Wednesday as rescue workers combed through rivers and the rubble of devastated villages where roads were transformed into murky brown rivers and villages were left covered by thick mud, rocks, and uprooted trees.

Heavy rains cause frequent landslides and flash floods in Indonesia, an archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near floodplains.

Marapi has been active since an eruption late last year that killed 23 climbers. It is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

The country is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

By Press Association

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