JAKARTA, Indonesia – Landslides triggered by days of heavy rain killed at least 40 people on an eastern Indonesian island on Saturday, and scores more were believed to be buried under the mud, officials said.
Lt. Col. Ginting Santoso, a police chief in the affected area on Flores island, told Metro TV that as of late Saturday 40 bodies had been recovered from two landslides, and that rescuers were searching for at least 29 other people believed to be buried.
Roads made inaccessible by a three-day deluge were complicating rescue operations and making compiling definitive tolls of the dead and missing difficult, said Frans Lebu Raya, a senior government official on the remote island.
"We have not been able to get heavy machinery to the villages, because landslides have also cut off the main road to the area," said Rustam Pakaya, the chief of the Health Department's Crisis Center in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta. "Many parts of the road also have collapsed."
Pakaya said he received a fax from the island reporting that landslides early Saturday killed at least 32 people in Cibal and Lambaleda districts, and that 20 people were missing and believed buried.
State news agency Antara reported landslides occurring in at least 15 other villages or districts, leaving some houses buried and vehicles damaged. It said roads were blocked in 20 places.
Instant noodles, canned fish, cooking oil and emergency tents were being distributed to some districts on the remote island, about 930 miles east of Jakarta, Antara reported.
Seasonal downpours cause dozens of deadly landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, a vast chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.
Last month, floods in Jakarta killed almost 100 people and paralyzed large sections of the city.