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Landslide Buries Indonesian Town

Rescuers and people from neighboring villages stand in the wreckage of Cijeruk village in Banjarnegara district, Central Java, Indonesia Wednesday Jan. 4, 2006. Landslides triggered by monsoon rains have killed or left missing more than 170 people on Indonesia's Java island, most of them in a single village buried beneath tons of mud and rocks early Wednesday, officials said.(AP Photo)
AP
A landslide buried a village in central Indonesia beneath tons of mud and rock Wednesday, bringing the number of people missing and feared dead following days of pounding rain to more than 170, officials said.

Residents and police were desperately digging for survivors with their bare hands in Cijeruk, where up to 100 people were believed to have died. Helicopters ferried away the injured in Jember, to the east, where flash floods earlier this week claimed at least 77 lives.

Some of the people who lived in Cijeruk fled to safety after hearing a deep rumbling sound from the 50-yard-high hill above their farming community hours before Wednesday's disaster, officials and witnesses said.

Others were at home either sleeping or performing Muslim prayers when the mud, rocks and trees cascaded down its slopes just before dawn, said Budi Warityo, a police officer at the scene.

"It was so fast ... first it sounded like a jet plane and then it got louder and louder," said Sujiman, 18, whose house escaped damage. "We ran in the darkness to the main road."

By Wednesday evening, 14 bodies had been recovered but scores of villagers remained unaccounted for, said regional official Hadi Supeno, as excavators shoved aside earth and decimated wooden homes despite incessant rains.

"We think 100 people may have been buried," he said, echoing estimates provided by hospital and emergency response officials working in the area, some 210 miles east of the capital, Jakarta.

Meanwhile, in the district of Jember, which was struck by landslides and flash floods Monday, the number of dead climbed to 77 after 14 more bodies were found, said Edi Susilo, a local government spokesman.

Soldiers and police wrapped dozens of corpses in white sheets and loaded the injured onto stretchers Wednesday. At least two helicopters aided the rescue efforts.

Dozens of other people were still missing or stranded, Susilo said, adding that many roads and bridges in the area were completely destroyed, hampering rescue efforts.

The local government scrambled to provide food, shelter and medicine to more than 5,400 people made homeless when mud, water and logs crashed into their villages, destroying hundreds of homes.

Heavy tropical downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, where millions of people live in mountainous regions and near fertile flood plains close to rivers.

Jember is 490 miles east of Jakarta and 280 miles east of Cijeruk, all on the densely populated island of Java.