Indonesia: 15 villagers buried under Cianjur landslide

Four hours of torrential rain in two villages in Cianjur, West Java, starting Thursday evening caused a landslide that buried 15 people and injured four others.

The Cianjur regency administration estimated Friday that water and mud had damaged at least 77 houses, and had dragged four others into the Cihanjuang river.

The villages of Girimukti and Cibokore sit in a deep valley some 70 kilometers from the West Java provincial capital of Bandung.

The landslide forced some 600 villagers to evacuate to safety, which for many lay in Girimukti Village Hall.

Rescue workers had found five bodies as of Friday.

The workers, including soldiers, police officers, scouts, volunteers and villagers, dug for survivors using their bare hands and simple tools.

The villages are only 10 kilometers from Cikancana road, but flooding has cut off all road access.

Rescue workers and evacuees were forced to walk two kilometers to and from the villages on narrow paths through steep hills that are prone to landslides.

The entourage of Cianjur Vice Regent Dadang Sufiyanto was eventually defeated by the difficult terrain a quarter of the way to the disaster site.

Further avalanches and resulting cracks in the land forced rescue workers to withdraw from the stricken area at 3 p.m. over fears heavy rain would trap them.

The villages were inundated in waist-high mud and water, forcing rescue workers to evacuate victims on wooden and bamboo rafts.

One villager, Nining, said the heavy rain had begun at 4 p.m. Thursday. Nining, her husband and their three children fled their house at about 7 p.m. when mud started to breach the back door.

"Suddenly we heard a thundering sound, we saw a landslide descending from the hill. We ran to find our relatives living on the river bank," she told The Jakarta Post while evacuating to her sister's house.

Surviving villagers could only watch as mud and water swept away trees and cars.

Dedah, a mother of three who lost seven of her relatives, said most of her family members had not been able to escape when the landslide reached their house.

"My husband, my children and I managed to flee but not the others," she said, weeping.

Villagers said they had received no warning from officials that their homes were susceptible to landslides.

"It has been safe and we've had no warnings at all," said Nining, who had been living on a 100-square-meter plot of land since 1984.

Suryakencana Regional Military Command chief Col. Amrid Salas Kembaren said the evacuation would continue over the next three days as would efforts to find the dead and to collect villagers' belongings.

"The main thing is to evacuate survivors," he said.

Cianjur Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Rahmat Hidayat said sniffer dogs would be deployed Saturday to find the bodies.