Landslide kills 5 in Indonesia's Java, 18 missing

2018-02-22 20:43
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Brebes — Five people are dead and 18 missing after a landslide on Thursday on the Indonesian island of Java engulfed farmers working in their rice paddies.

Hundreds of rescuers including soldiers and villagers used their bare hands and farm tools to search for victims buried beneath tons of mud and soil.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 14 people from the affected hamlet in Central Java's Brebes district were hospitalized with injuries. He said 18 others are missing based on reports from residents.

Survivors described a sudden roar as the side of a hill collapsed and swept trees and everything else in its path toward the terraced rice fields below.

"The hill above us looked like it was spinning down," said Watirah, a 53-year-old farmer from Pasir Panjang village, who with other villagers tried to outrun the sliding earth.

"I tried to keep going, tried to stand up and screamed loudly for help before I fell again," said Watirah, who goes by a single name. "I felt my body was so weak I couldn't stand up, but three people came to save me," she said. Her husband, Minarto, who was working in a nearby field, also narrowly survived.

Sutopo said the search and rescue team was having difficulty finding victims because of the unstable muddy conditions and width of the landslide. "Heavy equipment cannot be used," he said.

Local disaster official Eko Andalas said the landslide, which started in surrounding hills that are part of a forestry plantation, was triggered by torrential rains. He said villagers were afraid to return to their homes.

Disaster officials urged people to stay away from the area because of the risk of further landslides.

Seasonal rains cause widespread flooding and landslides across much of Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17 000 islands. Millions of people live in mountainous regions and on flood plains.

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