Deadly landslide, flooding in Java after days of rain

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BANDUNG • Five rice farmers were killed and 18 missing in Central Java when heavy rain caused a big landslide while they were working in the fields on Thursday, while thousands of homes in Bandung city in West Java province were flooded.

Officials say 14 farmers were injured in the landslide that occurred on Thursday morning in Central Java’s Brebes district.

Rescuers were yesterday frantically digging in the thick mud to look for survivors.

It won’t be easy finding the victims still buried under the mud… There is also the risk of more landslides,” National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho was quoted as saying by news site.

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring province of West Java, heavy rain in the last three days inundated homes and led major roads to be closed in the Greater Bandung area.

Seven districts were flooded, Indonesian media reports say.

Bandung regency’s disaster management head, Mr Akhmad Djohara, yesterday said his early assessment found 9,938 flooded homes affecting nearly 30,000 residents and 10 schools.

He was quoted as saying by Kompas newspaper that four roads in Bandung – 120km from capital city Jakarta – were “totally” closed to traffic as they were covered by waters between 30cm and 200cm high.

The flooding was worsened by the Citarum River, the third-longest river on Java island, breaking its banks, paralysing traffic in many parts of the sprawling city.

A video posted on Kompas site showed dozens of people wading in knee-high waters to cross a road in the city. Several dozen people from three districts in West Java have sought shelter in designated locations, news reported.

The landslides and floods are a common annual feature in Indonesia during the rainy season, and they do sometimes turn deadly.

Meanwhile, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Thursday that water from the Citarum should be made drinkable within seven years under a new clean-up project for the river, which is often ranked among the world’s most polluted.

Running 300km from a spring in West Java to the sea near Jakarta, the Citarum feeds three hydro-power stations and is used for 400,000ha of rice paddies.

But the river is choked with household waste and polluted with dangerous levels of dyes and heavy metals pumped by factories into its tributaries.

“We are trying to clean it as quickly as possible and hopefully in seven years’ time it can be a source of drinking water,” Mr Joko was quoted by Reuters as saying, after visiting the river’s source far to the south-east of Bandung.