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At Least 40 Dead In Indonesia Landslides

Landslides triggered by days of heavy rain killed at least 40 people on an eastern Indonesian island on Saturday and scores more were believed to be buried under the mud, officials said.

Authorities on Flores battled blocked roads to deliver emergency aid to affected districts and help dig for survivors, said Rustam Pakaya, the chief of the Health Department's Crisis Center in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

"We have not been able to get heavy machinery to the villages, because landslides have also cut off the main road to the area," he said, adding downed telephone lines was also hindering the relief effort. "Many parts of the road also have collapsed."

Lt. Col. Ginting Santoso, a police chief in the affected area on Flores island, told Metro TV that as of late Saturday 40 bodies had been recovered from two landslides, and that rescuers were searching for at least 29 other people believed to be buried.

Other agencies gave slightly different figures on the number of dead and missing, a common occurrence during natural disasters in Indonesia. The agencies rarely attempt to reconcile their figures.

State news agency Antara reported landslides occurring in at least 15 other villages or districts, leaving some houses buried and vehicles damaged. It said roads were blocked in 20 places.

Instant noodles, canned fish, cooking oil and emergency tents were being distributed to some districts on the remote island, about 930 miles east of Jakarta, Antara reported.

Seasonal downpours cause dozens of deadly landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, a vast chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.

Last month, floods in Jakarta killed almost 100 people and paralyzed large sections of the city.

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