January 2, 2006

Indonesia flood death toll hits 51, villages cut off

SURABAYA, Indonesia (Reuters) - The death toll from floods
and landslides that have devastated several villages in
Indonesia's East Java province has climbed to 51, a rescue
official said on Tuesday.

Heavy rains late on Sunday triggered the floods and
landslides at six small hillside villages near the town of
Jember, 800 km (500 miles) east of Jakarta. Most of the victims
were living on coffee plantations and riverbanks on the
Argopuro hills.

Rescue workers were struggling to reach some villages that
were still cut off, Muhammad Suryadi, a member of the state
disaster management agency, said by telephone from the scene.

"The death toll has reached 51. Thousands have sought
refuge and more than 300 can't get out (of their villages),"
Suryadi said.

"If the weather is good, rescuers will build emergency
bridges to reach those areas today."

Jawa Pos, East Java's leading newspaper that is based in
the provincial capital Surabaya, put the death toll at 57.

It said there would be more fatalities if the affected
areas could not be reached soon.

Rescuers have managed to retrieve 38 bodies, but others
were still wedged under debris.

Flooding and landslides are common in tropical Indonesia.
Many landslides are also caused by illegal logging or the
opening of farmland that strips away natural barriers to such