Last Tuesday morning, a landslide hit the Dewata Tea Plantation in Bandung Regency, West Java, burying many workers and their houses.
Here is an article about the tragedy that I have quoted from The New York Times.
Rescue Teams Continue Search After Indonesia Mudslide
By PETER GELLING
Published: February 24, 2010
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Local villagers and government rescue teams, using sniffer dogs and farm tools, searched Wednesday for workers on an Indonesian tea plantation who were buried by a mudslide estimated to be 35 feet deep.
More than 17 bodies have been recovered, including two children, according to Priyadi Kardono, a spokesman for the country’s Disaster Management Agency. He also said they believed there were between 50 and 60 people still buried in the mud and presumed dead. The mudslide, in the village of Pasirjambu in West Java, happened about 8 a.m. on Tuesday. Mr. Priyadi said the authorities did not learn of the situation until eight hours later because of poor communication lines in the village, which is located about 125 miles southeast of Jakarta, the capital.
“I think also that people were panicking and so focused on saving their own lives and the lives of their family members that they didn’t think to contact the authorities sooner,” Mr. Priyadi said.
Villagers placed markers where they believed that people had been buried. Rescuers found two survivors under the mud, and they were being treated a local hospital.
Most of the victims were plantation workers — who are typically women — or their family members.
The rescue effort has been complicated by the remoteness of the village, which sits in a valley and is normally accessible only by a small road using all-terrain vehicles or motorbikes. Heavy rains and flooding in recent days worsened the road conditions, and the search was delayed overnight.
Backhoes and other heavy equipment began to arrive in the village Wednesday morning. The Indonesian vice president, Boediono, also traveled to the scene on Wednesday.
Fearing more landslides, the government evacuated about 1,000 people from the valley. The military set up temporary camps on higher ground nearby.
Although large-scale deforestation is often the cause of landslides in Indonesia, Mr. Priyadi said the heavy rains had likely set off the mudslide. He also said that a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck West Java last September could have caused the hills in the area to crack and become unstable.
He said a survey should have been done to determine whether the area might be vulnerable to landslides.
The island of Java, the country’s most populated, has been deluged by rain this month, resulting in floods that have displaced thousands. In the city of Bandung, 55 miles from Tuesday’s mudslide site , flooding has displaced an estimated 10,000 families.
Thousands of people in Jakarta also were forced from their homes last weekend after city canals overflowed during heavy rains.