January 4, 2006

Indonesia landslide kills 16, scores more feared dead

By Dwi Prasetyo

SIJERUK, Indonesia (Reuters) - A landslide triggered by
heavy rains crashed into a village in Indonesia's Central Java
province on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people and possibly
trapping scores more under debris, officials said.

The disaster followed landslides in neighboring East Java
province earlier this week that killed at least 77 people.

Wednesday's pre-dawn landslide smashed into hundreds of
houses in the mountainous village of Sijeruk, home to around
700 people. Many were probably praying in a mosque at the time
of the landslide, police said, adding that the mosque was

Local media reported about 90 villagers were still missing.

Eko Budi Raharjo, spokesman for the local government who
was at the scene, said 102 homes had been buried under tonnes
of mud.

"People are still in a panic. They screamed earlier today
when there was another landslide, but it was not too big."

It was unclear how many people had survived, Raharjo said.
At least 13 people were injured and had been taken to hospital.

Rescue workers called off efforts to find more victims late
in the afternoon because of heavy rains.

Earlier, they moved two excavators and two bulldozers into
the village to start shifting debris.

Thousands of onlookers from other areas crowded around the
perimeter of the destroyed village, where mud up to 6 meters
(20 feet) high encased the remains of many homes.

Police in the nearby town of Banjarnegara, 350 km (220
miles) east of Jakarta, said about 500 of the 722 people in
Sijeruk village had been reported alive after the disaster.

"It happened around dawn, when people usually go to the
mosque to pray. We have reports the mosque was flattened, so
there may be more casualties," said officer Broto Suyatno.

Floods and landslides are common in Indonesia, especially
at this time of the year during the wet season. Many landslides
are caused by illegal logging or the clearing of farmland that
strips away natural barriers to such disasters.

Around the East Java village of Kemiri, hundreds of rescue
workers and soldiers have been trying to reach a handful of
villages still cut off by floods and landslides that swept
through the area late on Sunday.

Officials on Wednesday put the death toll there at 77,
including two rescue workers who drowned in swollen rivers.

Muhammad Suryadi, a member of the state disaster management
agency in the nearby town of Jember 800 km (500 miles) east of
Jakarta, said rescuers were trying to reach the cut-off areas.

Most of the villagers in the Kemiri area live on coffee
plantations and river banks where many trees had been felled.

(Additional reporting by Achmad Sukarsono and Ade Rina in
Jakarta and Heri Retnowati in Surabaya)