Fri, 25 Feb 2000

Nine killed, 27 feared missing in Brebes landslide

BREBES, Central Java (JP): A landslide swept through the village of Windu Sakti here as residents slept on Wednesday night, leaving at least nine people dead and another 27 missing.

The landslide, which followed torrential rains that had fallen in the area since Tuesday, also buried 19 houses, a village hall and a mosque.

As of Thursday evening, a rescue team comprising members of the local police force, military personnel and village residents had unearthed nine bodies. The remaining 27 missing villagers are feared dead beneath the mud.

Rescue efforts were halted on Thursday night when heavy rain began pounding the hills surrounding the village, raising fears of another landslide.

"The landslides are expected to continue. We will find it difficult to recover more corpses from the mud," Yustan Hanidi, a member of the rescue team, said.

Village head Daska Sunarya identified those killed as Abdul Muvid, 29; Rohidin, 9; Mrs. Darki, 65; Mrs. Taski, 25; Sahidin, 9; Mrs. Daram, 22; Daski, 35; Mrs. Kartini, 35; and one-year-old Tarmilah.

"Tarmilah's parents, Solihin and Sarsi, are still missing," Daska said.

He said the village had a total of 497 residents. "All the survivors are now staying at neighboring villages."

A Windu Sakti resident, Darso, 35, described the landslide, which struck without warning.

"I heard a sound like thunder and the earth shook. The people, who were mostly sleeping, rushed from their homes. Many of them ran toward the forest and some of them ran to open ground," he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He said all those residents who fled into the forest survived. "But those who ran to open ground were crushed by the flow of mud."

He said the villagers never expected the 300-meter-high hill, called Bukit Kukuncung, to collapse.

Other survivors said the flowing mud blocked a river which ran alongside the village, causing it to burst its banks.

Windu Sakti is located 80 kilometers southeast of the town of Brebes. The landslide effectively paralyzed local ground traffic, with vehicles heading to the village forced to take a southern route which is twice as long as the normal route.

Central Java Governor Mardiyanto said the missing villagers must be found, dead or alive. "The provincial administration will help finance medical treatment for the survivors and the burial of the dead," he said.

Brebes Regent Tadjuddin Nuraly said his office had allocated Rp 10 million to help the villagers, while the district office donated three tons of rice and Rp 5 million in cash and medicine.

Residents of neighboring villages also have donated used clothes to help the landslide survivors.

A landslide also struck the neighboring village of Gunung Jaya, leaving one person dead and 12 houses damaged by the mud. The fatality had not been identified as of Thursday.

Local police officers said some 80 houses in the village were threatened by the landslide. (45/har/edt/sur)