December 13, 2014 / 2:24 AM / 3 years ago

Indonesia rescuers use hands in search for scores missing in mudslide

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A landslide destroyed a remote village in Indonesia, killing at least 17 people, an official said on Saturday, as rescuers used their bare hands and sticks to search through the mud for scores of missing in the absence of heavy-lifting equipment.

Indonesian soldiers and rescue team members walk through the mud after a landslide hit the village of Sampang in Banjarnegara, December 13, 2014 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. REUTERS/Idhad Zakaria/Antara Foto

Hundreds have been evacuated from around Jemblung village in the Banjarnegara regency of central Java, about 450 km (280 miles) from the capital, Jakarta, where media pictures showed a flood of orange mud and water cascading down a wooded mountainside after Friday’s disaster.

Mudslides are common in Indonesia during the monsoon season, which usually runs from October until April. Large swathes of forest land, power lines and houses were buried.

Hampering the rescue effort was a lack of a telephone signal and earth-moving equipment in the isolated, rural area.

“There was a roaring sound like thunder,” Imam, who lives in a neighboring village, told television. “Then I saw trees were flying and then the landslides. People here also panicked and fled.”

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said 17 people had been killed, 15 rescued, 91 were missing and 423 people from the surrounding areas had been taken to temporary shelters.

He said there was a history of similar disasters in the area.

Eleven of the 15 rescued were receiving hospital treatment, he said. A government agency official added that the rescue effort had been suspended as light faded and would resume on Sunday.

Five of the dead were found in one car, television reported. It showed rescuers using bamboo stretchers to carry bodies away.

“Jemblung village was the most affected,” Nugroho said. “The challenge is that the evacuation route is also damaged by the landslide.”

A rescue team of about 400 people, which included police, military and local volunteers, used their bare hands and makeshift tools to search for people and clear the area.

A second resident said there had been no warnings of the likelihood of a landslide.

Editing by Nick Macfie

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