Scores dead, more missing after heavy rain triggers landslide in Indonesian village

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 3:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 3:37pm

Two landslides triggered by torrential rain killed at least 19 people and left 10 others missing on Indonesia’s main island of Java, a government official said on Tuesday.

Five houses were buried when mud rolled down from surrounding hills just after midnight in Mekarsari village of East Java’s Jombang district, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

He said rescuers pulled seven bodies from mounds of mud and were still searching for 10 others reportedly missing under tons of debris.

“[The] lack of equipment hampered our rescue efforts for those who are still missing and feared dead,” said Nugroho.

The landslide happened in mountainous Jombang at 1.30am (local time) after particularly heavy downpour, said local disaster agency official Putra Anugerah.

“Sixty people have also been displaced,” Anugerah said earlier that day.

Authorities struggled to get tractors and bulldozers over washed-out roads. Television footage showed hundreds of police, soldiers and residents digging through debris with their hands, shovels and hoes.

[The] lack of equipment hampered our rescue efforts for those who are still missing and feared dead
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, disaster agency spokesman

Tuesday’s disaster was second fatal landslide within several days on the densely populated Java island.

A similar landslide hit Central Java’s Kudos district when mud and rocks suddenly cascaded down hills late Friday, leaving at least 12 villagers dead.

Seasonal rains and high tides in recent days have caused dozens of landslides and widespread flooding across much of Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains near rivers.

Environmentalists blame logging and a failure to reforest denuded land for exacerbating the floods and causing landslides, which hit Java’s mountainous regions every wet season.