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Archive for Thursday, January 5, 2006

Landslide buries village; death toll could surpass 190

January 5, 2006

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— A landslide caused by days of pounding rain buried a small village beneath tons of mud and rock Wednesday, bringing the number of dead or missing from days of wet weather in central Indonesia to more than 190, officials said.

The landslide sent mud, rocks and trees cascading onto the Java island village of Cijeruk before dawn, when many residents were still asleep or were praying at the local mosque. Officials said 14 bodies had been recovered and about 100 more residents were missing and feared dead in the village, about 210 miles east of the capital Jakarta.

In the district of Jember, also on Java, the death toll from landslides and flash floods this week climbed to 77 after 14 more bodies were recovered, said local government spokesman Edi Susilo. Dozens were still missing or stranded.

Jember is about 280 miles east of Cijeruk.

Saryono, a 50-year-old fruit farmer in Cijeruk, said he watched helplessly as dozens of his neighbors were buried alive, some of them screaming as they disappeared beneath thick clay-like mud more than 20 feet deep in some spots.


Rescuers and people from neighboring villages search among the wreckage of Cijeruk village for survivors after tons of mud loosened by monsoon rains buried the village Wednesday in Banjarnegara district, Central Java, Indonesia. Landslides triggered by monsoon rains have killed or left missing more than 170 people on Indonesia's Java island.

Rescuers and people from neighboring villages search among the wreckage of Cijeruk village for survivors after tons of mud loosened by monsoon rains buried the village Wednesday in Banjarnegara district, Central Java, Indonesia. Landslides triggered by monsoon rains have killed or left missing more than 170 people on Indonesia's Java island.

"They were yelling 'Allah Akhbar! (God is great!)' and then were slowly buried," said Saryono, who goes by one name. "I saw them buried alive."

Saryono was trapped waist deep as he watched 20 to 30 of his neighbors vanish. He was rescued 15 minutes later by other survivors.

Many people in Cijeruk said they were aware the earth on the 50-yard hill that flanked their village may not hold. After hearing a deep rumbling and cracking sound about 1 a.m. Wednesday, they fled to safer ground.

While residents and police dug through the mud with bare hands to search for survivors, officials held out little hope for the more than 100 people still missing in the remote farming community. Only 14 bodies had been recovered by Wednesday evening.

"We think 100 people may have been buried," regional official Hadi Supeno said.

At least two excavators were helping shove aside earth and the remains of decimated wooden homes in search of the missing.

Meanwhile, in Jember, which was struck by landslides and flash floods Monday, helicopters ferried away the injured while soldiers and police wrapped white sheets around newly discovered corpses.

Many roads and bridges were destroyed, hampering rescue efforts, Susilo said.

The local government scrambled to provide food, shelter and medicine to more than 5,400 people made homeless when mud, water and logs crashed into their villages, destroying hundreds of homes.

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.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono plans to visit the affected sites in Java today.

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