Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Indonesia landslide 'kills five' in West Java village

Indonesians wade through flood in Bandung, West Java, on 19 Feb 2010
Heavy rain triggered floods in the area last week

At least five people have been killed and dozens are missing after a huge landslide buried a village in West Java, Indonesia, officials say.

Rescue teams have been sent to look for survivors at a tea plantation near Bandung, south of the capital, Jakarta.

Hundreds of people have been left homeless by the landslide, which is reported to have hit a workers' housing area in the morning.

Landslides triggered by monsoon rain or floods are common in Indonesia.

Bandung has had particularly heavy rains and floods, with scores of people fleeing from their homes to safety during the past two weeks.

Communication problems

More than 300 search and rescue personnel with heavy equipment are heading to the area, near Ciwidey village, about 35km (22 miles) south-west of Bandung city, officials say.

"It had been raining very heavily since yesterday [Monday] and that probably caused the landslide," Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono told the AFP news agency.

"We believe the landslide area could be the size of two football fields. The tea-processing plant and 50 houses were also buried."

Indonesia map

Another official said some houses were buried so deep that even the rooftops were invisible.

The plantation owns barracks to provide housing for its hundreds of workers.

Mr Kardono said roads to the area had been blocked: "We're facing problems trying to reach them."

Rescue efforts are also being hampered by poor communication due to the collapse of a mobile phone tower which was brought down by the landslide.

As no heavy earth-moving equipment was available in the area, villagers were digging through tonnes of mud with farm tools and their bare hands to search for survivors, police Chief Lt Col Imron Yunus told the Associated Press news agency.

The Indonesian Red Cross said about 500 villagers who lost their homes had been moved to temporary shelters in neighbouring villages.

Landslides - especially during the rainy season - are frequent in Indonesia, where years of deforestation can often leave hillsides vulnerable to collapse, says the BBC's Karishma Vaswani in Jakarta.

According to environmentalists, tropical downpours can quickly soak hills stripped of vegetation which had held the soil in place.

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