January 6, 2006
Java village buried by landslide

Scores of people are feared dead after more than 100 homes were buried by a landslide triggered by heavy rains in Central Java, Indonesia.

A local official said 14 bodies had been found so far in Sijeruk village. {{more}}

Rescuers are also looking for survivors after flash floods and landslips killed at least 77 people in East Java earlier this week.

Environmentalists have warned that deforestation on Java is exacerbating the effects of floods and landslides.

Tons of mud and rubble poured down onto the village of Sijeruk just after dawn, local time, on Wednesday, sweeping away more than 100 houses.

Sijeruk is home to some 700 people, but many were thought to have fled their homes before the landslide because of the heavy rains, Budi Warityo, a police officer at the scene, told the Associated Press.

Regional official Hadi Supeno estimated about 100 people may have been buried. Earlier estimates were higher.

District welfare official Umar Yulianto said nine of 13 people found alive at the scene later died in hospital.

The authorities have sent earth-moving equipment to the area to help the search for survivors.

The incident happened as police, soldiers, villagers and volunteers continued to pull bodies from the sludge and wreckage from four villages in Jember district, East Java, after flash floods and landslides there earlier this week triggered by days of heavy rain.

Officials say that more than 2,500 buildings have been destroyed, and they expect to find more bodies as the debris is cleared.

Flash flooding and landslides are common in Indonesia, especially during the rainy season between November and March.

Environmentalists say that much of the forest cover in the area – which would normally absorb some of the rain and prevent the hillsides from slipping – has been cut down in recent years, exacerbating its effects.

A recent UN report suggested that deforestation cannot be blamed for widespread flooding such as the deadly deluges in the southern US last year – which are the result of climatic patterns – but does contribute to small-scale flooding. (BBC)