12/27/2007, 00.00
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In Java tens of people die, thousands are displaced by landslides, entire hills collapse

Roads are blocked and rescue efforts are hampered. In some places people are digging by hand in search of survivors. These are the worst monsoon rains in 25 years.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least 78 people have been killed and thousands are reported missing after days of rain caused floods and landslides in central Java. Local officials say they fear the death toll could rise. Thousands have been forced to seek shelter after their homes were buried or washed away.

Soldiers, police and volunteers are digging for survivors by hand, trying to get heavy lifting equipment to villages on the main island of Java. Rescuers have been struggling to reach many of the affected areas as roads have been cut off.

Field kitchens have been being set up as restaurants and shops were closed.

Television pictures showed people wading through chest-high water, clutching their belongings above their heads.

Making matters worse most people were taken by surprise as no one expected landslides of this scale to occur.

Rescue chief Eko Prayitno said that the worst incident was reported in Karanganyar, where at least 61 people were buried at a dinner party celebrating the clean-up of a mud-covered home.

In nearby Wonogiri district, 17 people were feared dead when landslides hit their homes following 12 hours of rain.

Near the village of Ngledoksari an entire hill collapsed, sweeping away many houses.

In East Java province, about 100 hectares of rice paddy fields were damaged by floods.

In the last few years monsoon rains that usually last until the end of February have become heavier causing greater damages.

Whilst landslides and floods are regular occurrences in Indonesia many blame deforestation for their greater impact. However, others note that the forested surface was never very extensive in the affected region.

At least 100 people were killed and more than 250,000 forced from their homes in December 2006 after torrential rain caused floods and landslides in the north of the island of Sumatra.

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