Committed to PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO KNOW
Vol. 5 Num 263 Tue. February 22, 2005  
   
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150 feared dead in Indonesia landslide


Almost 150 people were believed to have died under hundreds of tonnes of garbage and earth on Indonesia's main island yesterday when heavy seasonal rain unleashed a massive landslide, police said.

The landslide struck in the early hours when people were asleep and flattened up to 70 homes built in the shadow of a dumpsite at Cimahi, near Bandung, around 200km southeast of Jakarta.

Television footage showed whole houses buried under tonnes of earth and rubbish, with splintered rafters and smashed roof tiles littering the area.

Scores of rescuers and search teams from the military, police and local residents were desperately scouring the site in the forlorn hope of rescuing some of those missing.

Police Commissioner Susiyanti told AFP that 17 bodies had so far been pulled from the rubble and that a further 129 were missing and believed buried under the mountain of garbage.

"It appears that all of them are buried and it is very likely that they are all dead," she said.

Of those bodies already recovered, she said, "some of them are badly disfigured, some aren't. We will continue rescue efforts until sun down" and resume in the morning.

"The situation is still grave but we will continue rescue efforts while the weather still allows us to do so," she said, adding that while the rain had stopped for the moment, dark clouds still threatened to bring more.

The recovery effort was being hindered because rescuers feared triggering further landslides by disrupting the unstable ground, she added.

The dumpsite was located on top of a hill above the homes and heavy rain had saturated the mountains of trash, causing the tragedy, she explained.

Second Sergeant Sudrajat from the Batujajar subdistrict police post said that while several bodies had been dragged from shattered homes at the edge of the landslide, only five people had been pulled out alive.

A policeman in Cimahi named Awan told AFP that at least 70 houses were engulfed by the landslide.

Local village chief Saiful Bagir said local authorities had promised on six occasions to relocate the dumpsite, deemed to be a threat to the homes, but had not done so, Indosiar television reported.

Landslides are relatively common in Indonesia during the rainy season, especially on the most populated and mountainous island of Java.

Last year at least 42 people were killed in West Sumatra when a landslide buried a bus under tons of soil, trees and bushes.