Survivor of Indonesia landslide recalls being buried in mud

By Abdul Rahman Muchtar

SUWAWA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Ridwan Wadjah vividly remembers the moment a torrent of mud came crashing down on him and the dozens of miners working this week in an illegal gold mine in Indonesia's Sulawesi island.

A landslide triggered by heavy rain in the island's Suwawa district submerged the mine on Sunday, killing 23 people. Rescuers are racing against time to find the 27 people still missing, but the search was halted on Thursday due to the unrelenting rain, rescue official Afifuddin Ilahude said.

Ridwan was one of the 95 miners who survived. After pushing himself out of the mud and debris, he ran to a nearby village at midnight to seek help. The villagers, fearful of the rain, told him to wait until morning, he said.

"I still remember what the landslide looked like," he told Reuters several days after the incident.

Landslides are frequent in Indonesia, with the risk often increased by deforestation and small-scale illegal mining operations in remote districts that are difficult for authorities to regulate.

Another miner, Rikson Buhungo, was swept into a pit by the landslide. He suffered injuries to his legs and upper body but all 10 miners who worked with him died, he said.

Illegal mining provides the only source of income for many families in remote areas of Indonesia. Ridwan's family is one of them, but the 53-year-old said that after the accident, he really needed a break.

"I must take a break now. And it's been raining all the time, so I should take a break," he said.

Asked how he would make ends meet now, Ridwan said: "I can only let God work things out his way. I just have to have patience."

(Reporting by Abdul Rahman Muhtar in Suwawa, Ananda Teresia and Stanley Widianto in Jakarta, Editing by Miral Fahmy)