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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 January 2006, 14:26 GMT
Hopes fade after Java landslide
Indonesia soldiers and rescuers search through debris at Cijeruk village for survivors after tons of mud loosened by monsoon rains buried the village in Banjarnegara district, Central Java, Thursday,
Rescuers are still searching through the rubble in Sijeruk
Rescuers are continuing their search for victims of a massive landslide in central Java, Indonesia, but hopes of finding any more survivors are fading.

So far 34 bodies have been found after Wednesday's disaster in Sijeruk but officials fear dozens more dead as around 100 houses were buried.

Another rescue effort is also under way in Jember, in eastern Java.

Landslides and floods in the area earlier this week are now known to have killed at least 77 people.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) in Geneva, 9,500 people have been left homeless in the district, and nearly 7,000 are living in temporary camps.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was planning to visit some of the areas affected by this week's disasters later on Thursday.

Buried alive

Tons of mud and rubble poured down onto the village of Sijeruk just after dawn on Wednesday, sweeping away more than 100 houses.

One man described watching helplessly as dozens of his neighbours were buried alive.

"They were yelling 'Allah Akhbar', and then were slowly buried," 50-year-old Saryono told the Associated Press.


Mechanical diggers are being used to clear the debris, but rescuers and volunteers are also digging through piles of mud with their bare hands.

"I'm here to find my nephew. I want to know if he is alive or dead," 30-year-old Atin told the French news agency AFP.

But rescuers are pessimistic that any more survivors will be found buried in the rubble.

"The possibility of finding survivors is almost nil," said a soldier helping the rescue effort.

Two of the 34 bodies found so far were of a mother tightly hugging her child.

The estimated death toll from the disaster still remains uncertain. Sijeruk is home to some 700 people, but many are thought to have fled their homes before the landslide because of the heavy rains.

The head of disaster management for the Indonesian Red Cross said the death toll could prove to be as high as 300.

"There were more than 100 families living at the buried area, and if we say each family has three members, 300 could be buried if all of them were there," Irman Rachman told Reuters news agency.

The BBC's correspondent in Jakarta, Rachel Harvey, says it will be some days yet before the final figure is known.

Role of logging

Floods and landslides are common in Indonesia, especially during the rainy season between November and March.

Environmentalists say that the risk of disaster is increased by intensive logging, which reduces the number of trees that would normally prevent the hillsides from slipping.

But reports say that, in the case of Wednesday's disaster in Sijeruk, logging was not to blame as the landslide happened on a densely forested hill.

Some environmental experts, though, are still blaming logging for the disaster earlier in the week in East Java.

According to Reuter, most of the villagers in the Jember area live on coffee plantations and river banks, where many trees have been felled.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the destruction caused by flash floods and landslides



SEE ALSO:
Java village buried by landslide
04 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Dozens killed in Indonesia floods
03 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Indonesia landslide
04 Jan 06 |  In Pictures
In pictures: Indonesia floods
03 Jan 06 |  In Pictures
Logging does not raise flood risk
12 Oct 05 |  Science/Nature


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