| Terrain slows rescuers in Indonesian landslides
| Friday, December 28, 2007
|JAKARTA: Rescue workers struggled for a second day Thursday to move emergency equipment into remote villages in central Java buried by landslides that so far have killed at least 80 people.
The villages, in a mountainous area, have been difficult to reach with large trucks, backhoes and other equipment needed to dig out bodies or possible survivors.
The police, military personnel and residents have been clawing through the dense mud with hands and crude farming tools since early Wednesday morning, when the mudslides struck.
Tabrani, who heads the National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Management, said that dozens were still unaccounted for and that the death toll could rise when excavating machines finally reach the area.
"The locations are quite difficult to get to with heavy equipment, so we are relying on local government, police and military to manually dig through the mud," Tabrani said. "We expect to find more bodies, and we are praying we find some who are still alive."
Relentless rain this week has triggered flooding and landslides across much of Indonesia. Landslides in Yogyakarta, also in central Java, destroyed houses and farms.
At least one landslide in east Java and another on the resort island of Bali were responsible for several deaths. Also in east Java, at least 50 people were missing after floods caused a bridge to collapse.
Landslides are frequent in Indonesia during the long rainy season as driving rain batters hillsides, soaking the soil and dislodging large pieces of earth.
Java, which is densely populated, is particularly vulnerable because so many people live along hillsides or in valleys, officials said, and because decades of persistent logging activity have left the ground rootless and unable to absorb heavy rain.
The disaster management agency estimates that more than 500 landslides in the last decade have been partly the result of excessive logging.
"Too much logging has definitely made the conditions worse in this area," said Tabrani, who has been scrambling in the last few days to monitor the numerous disasters. "There is very little forest there anymore and that has contributed to causing the landslides."
The landslides on Wednesday in central Java, together with heavy flooding, have displaced thousands of people in the Karang Anyar District, who are now camping under makeshift tents or staying with relatives.
Local television showed residents carrying belongings on their heads as they waded through chest-high water.
A wide, raging river, also in Karang Anyar, jumped its banks Wednesday, flooding roads and adding to the difficulty of moving aid into the area.
Residents in the village of Tawangmangu escaped a small landslide just after midnight Wednesday morning. But as they returned hours later to clean their houses, another, much larger landslide smashed through their homes, burying dozens of people.
Tawangmangu, which so far has recorded the most deaths, is set mostly along steep valley cliffs and has been nearly washed away, said a police chief, Suardi.
"In rained for days and days, which caused this landslide," Suardi said. "The village has been totally destroyed."
The authorities are still trying to work out the exact numbers of dead, missing and displaced. The remoteness of the villages and the movement of large groups of people into camps and other homes has made counting difficult, Tabrani said.
Indonesia has been the victim of countless natural disasters in recent years. This week's landslides and flooding came as Indonesians marked the third anniversary of the 2004 tsunami that killed 170,000 people in Indonesia alone and leveled an entire city on the island of Sumatra.
|posted by Moderator Londen time 1:09 PM