Indonesia

Landslides leave 75 dead or missing in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Landslides caused by torrential rains overnight have left 75 people dead or missing in Indonesia's Central Java province, the emergency response agency said on Wednesday.

A provincial official said the landslides were the worst to hit the region in quarter of a century as thousands of people moved to rescue shelters after their homes were buried or washed away.

Rescue workers and police were struggling to reach the affected areas as roads were cut off by floods following the rains, said provincial police spokesman Syahroni.

The National Disaster Management Agency said 24 bodies had been recovered and another 37 people were missing following landslides in at least nine villages in Karanganyar district near the banks of the famous Bengawan Solo river.

Another 14 people are missing in Wonogiri district 30 km (19 miles) south of Karanganyar, but lack of heavy equipment was slowing down rescue efforts.

"It is difficult for any help to reach the area, so the local teams are left on their own," said Julianto, an official with the provincial government.

"The landslides took us by surprise. This is the first time in the last 25 years anything of this scale occurred here in Central Java."

Thousands of villagers in areas who lost their homes to floods or landslides have moved into temporary shelters in buildings and tents set up by local emergency response teams, Julianto said.

Metro TV showed residents wading through neck-high water.

Landslides are frequent in Indonesia, where tropical downpours can quickly soak hillsides and years of deforestation often means there is little vegetation to hold the soil.

(Reporting by Ahmad Pathoni and Adhityani Arga, Editing by Sugita Katyal and Sanjeev Miglani)

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