A landslide unleashed by heavy rains in Indonesia's mountainous Central Java yesterday has killed 12 people but up to 200 were feared dead, police said, as rescuers scrambled to find survivors.
A torrent of mud slammed into dozens of homes in the village of Cijeruk, 370 kilometers east of the capital Jakarta.
"We suspect there are about 200 people in 120 houses buried in the mud," local chief of police operations Budi said, adding that about 150 police and soldiers were at the scene carrying out rescue operations.
A district welfare official Umar Yulianto said nine of 13 people found alive at the scene later died in hospital.
"Their injuries were too severe," he said. Three other people were also found dead, Yulianto and police said.
The landslide slammed into houses at about 5:00 a.m. (local time) after three days of monsoon rains.
Workers used two excavators and hand tools such as spades and hoes to dig into the mound in the hope of finding survivors, he said.
"Residents living at the foot of Mount Raja ... heard a thundering sound before earth caved in," local official Nur Indah told AFP. She said her office estimated about 160 people were buried in 80 homes.
Banjar Negara deputy police chief Gusti Indra Cahyadi told the online Detikcom news agency that the road leading to the village was damaged, hampering efforts to bring in more heavy rescue equipment.
"The road is unstable and subsided, making it very difficult for heavy equipment to reach the area," he was quoted as saying.
He said the area was prone to landslides during the rainy season.
"There have been many landslides but in the past only 10 houses were hit at the most," he said.
The landslide came as rescuers continued to sift through debris and mud in the aftermath of flash floods in East Java province which have killed at least 57 people and left thousands homeless.
"The evacuation of bodies is still continuing. Twenty bodies are still at the scene but they have been included in the tally. We will use a helicopter if land transport is not possible," Teduh Tedjo, who is coordinating police rescue efforts, told AFP by telephone from Jember.
Misdarno, from the disaster coordinating center in East Java's capital Surabaya, said the death toll was still at 57 but added that 17 more people were listed as missing.
"Bridges have collapsed and the currents are strong so only SAR (search and rescue) workers have the capability to access the areas."
Four villages in Jember district, 800 kilometers east of the capital, were affected. About 5,000 refugees sheltered in mosques, schools and other government buildings as 400 police and troops built emergency bridges and ferried medical aid, food and water to survivors.
Environmentalists blamed both disasters on rampant illegal logging as well as land conversion for farming on Java, one of the world's most densely populated islands, as they called on the government to take action.
"We can look forward to another disaster if they don't stop (deforestation) and if they don't reforest areas with original species to make new natural forests," Greenpeace Southeast Asia forestry campaigner Hapsoro told AFP.
"This is a sign for the Indonesian government to be more serious."
More than 140 Indonesians were killed in February last year when a garbage slide buried more than 60 houses in a village southwest of Jakarta after days of heavy rains.
In 2003, more than 200 lives were claimed when flash floods tore through Bahorok, a popular riverside resort in North Sumatra.