Indonesia deaths fewer than feared

Indonesia has revised the estimated death toll from a landslide that levelled a village in Central Java from 200 to 53, after many of those initially reported missing were accounted for.

    Rescuers have said they do not expect to find further survivors

    Soldiers and police have been using excavators to clear mud since Wednesday after pre-dawn torrential rains sent part of the hillside crashing into the village of Sijeruk near the town of Banjarnegara.

    Commissioner Budi Wartoyo, the head of police operations in Banjarnegara district, said rescuers have so far unearthed 57 bodies and that the search for remaining victims was expected to be called off on Saturday. Officials had earlier said up to 200 people had been buried.

    He said that 536 of the area's 655 residents had escaped the landslide, 13 people were in hospital for treatment of injuries and 33 others were not home when the incident took place.

    "We expected to exhume about 20 victims today and complete the search. According to our count, there are 27 residents who are still missing and could be trapped under the debris. We have accounted for the rest," he said.

    The landslide in Sijeruk, 370km east of the capital Jakarta, is the second disaster on Java island in the past week.

    Flash floods killed at least 77 people and swept away hundreds of houses in several villages in neighbouring East Java province on New Year's Eve.

    Deforestation claims

    A police helicopter was continuing to search fro victims in the isolated areas of Jembar.

    Both disasters followed days of monsoon rains.

    Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, responded to claims that deforestation was to blame for the flooding and landslides by promising on investigation on Friday.

    Environmentalists pointed the finger at massive logging and land conversion for farming on Java, one of the world's most densely populated islands.

    Yudhoyono (2L) will look into claims
    that  deforestation is to blame

    Malam Sambat Kaban, the forestry minister, has denied that the landslide in Sijeruk was caused by logging and blamed unstable earth in the area.

    Flooding and landslides are not unusual during Indonesia's rainy season.

    In 2003, more than 200 people died when flash floods tore through Bahorok, a riverside resort in North Sumatra province. Some officials denied that deforestation was the cause of that incident.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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