32 dead, 76 missing in central Indonesia mudslide

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Banjarnegara (Indonesia), Dec 14:  Rescuers pulled more bodies from the debris today after heavy rain in central Indonesia loosened soil and collapsed a hill, setting off a landslide that killed at least 32 villagers and left 76 others missing under piles of mud.

About 2,000 rescuers, including soldiers, police and volunteers, were digging through the mud and the wreckage of crumpled homes, getting some relief from clear weather following days of heavy rain.

20 dead in Indonesia landslide

Excavators, meanwhile, shoved aside earth and the remains of decimated wooden homes. Residents of Jemblung village in Central Java province's Banjarnegara district said they heard a roaring sound followed by the raining down of red soil that buried more than 100 houses late Friday.

"The landslide looked like it was spinning down," said one resident, Subroto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. "I managed to rescue a pregnant woman, but could not save the other man."

He said one side of the hill collapsed, then another.

"In five minutes, there were three (major landslides) and they swept away everything," Subroto said.

By late afternoon today, 32 bodies had been pulled from the debris, while hopes faded that the 76 people still missing would be found alive, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Many roads and bridges were destroyed, hampering rescue efforts, Nugroho said. Indonesian President Joko Widodo arrived at the scene today.

He pledged to relocate the hundreds of people left homeless by the disaster, and assured that the government would help provide aid for those who were injured. Eleven injured villagers were hospitalized.

Many people in Jemblung village said they were aware that the earth on the 150-meter (yard) hill that flanked their remote farming village may not hold. After hearing a deep rumbling sound just after dusk Friday, some fled to safer ground.

But others were either at home or at the local mosque when the mud, rocks and trees tumbled onto their village.

Wawan Wahyuni, a 20-year-old farmer, said he watched helplessly as his grandfather and dozens of his neighbors disappeared beneath mud more than 6 meters deep in some spots.

"I saw them buried alive," Wahyuni said. "They were yelling 'Allah Akbar! (God is great!) before being slowly buried." Wahyuni himself was buried up to his chest until survivors rescued him seven hours later.

Banjarnegara is located on Indonesia's most densely populated island of Java, about 460 kilometers east of Jakarta.

PTI

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