Indonesia landslides kill hundreds

Landslides have wiped out several Indonesian villages, leaving more than 210 people dead or missing, officials said.

Masses of mud and rock wiped out several villages
Masses of mud and rock wiped out several villages

Soldiers and volunteers searched for survivors buried beneath tonnes of mud and rock on Thursday.

Hundreds of people watched from behind police lines in the village of Cijeruk on Java Island as rescue workers pulled more than a dozen corpses from the debris, including a mother clinging to her child.

Twenty-six bodies have been recovered since Wednesday, when a landslide cascaded on to the farming community just before dawn, said Aris Sudaryanto, co-ordinator of the search and rescue efforts. Close to 100 others were missing and feared dead.

Meanwhile, helicopters were trying to reach survivors in the district of Jember, hundreds of kilometres to the east, where the death toll from wet weather earlier this week climbed to 103, said Purwanto, the local government spokesman. Dozens more were missing or stranded.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, was planning to visit some of the affected areas on Thursday.

Heavy tropical downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, where millions of people live in mountainous regions and near fertile flood plains close to rivers.

Buried alive

Hundreds of soldiers and policemen were involved in the rscue operation

Hundreds of soldiers and policemen
were involved in the rscue operation

Many people in Cijeruk said they were aware that the earth on the 50-metre hill that flanked their village might not hold. After hearing a deep rumbling sound just after midnight on Wednesday, some fled to safer ground.

But others were at home or  at the local mosque when the mud, rocks and trees tumbled on to their village just before dawn, sweeping away more than 100 homes.

Saryono, 50, saw dozens of his neighbours sucked beneath the heavy mud – seven metres deep in some places.

“They were crying ‘Allahu Akbar,’ and then were slowly buried,” said the fruit farmer, who, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name. “I saw them buried alive.”

Rescue efforts defeated

They were crying ‘Allahu Akbar,’ and then were slowly buried … I saw them buried alive” 

Saryono, one of the survivors

Meanwhile, in Jember, which was struck by landslides and flash floods on Monday, many roads and bridges were destroyed, hampering rescue efforts.

Two helicopters were being used to ferry stranded and injured villagers to safety and to fly in food, medical supplies and clothes to thousands of people made homeless by the disaster.

Twenty-six bodies were recovered on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 103, Purwanto said.

Jember is 900km (490 miles) east of Jakarta and 450km (280 miles) east of Cijeruk – all on the densely populated island of Java.

Source : News Agencies

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