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At least 46 feared dead in Java landslide

/ Source: The Associated Press

Rescuers brought in heavy digging equipment Wednesday to clear a muddy landslide that killed at least 17 people and left 29 others buried on Indonesia's main island of Java, an official said.

Days of heavy rain prompted the landslide Tuesday afternoon at a mountainous tea plantation near the village of Tenjoljaya in Ciwidey district of West Java province, destroying scores of homes.

Scores of soldiers and police officers plus two excavators bolstered search efforts Wednesday and 17 bodies had been recovered from a vast pile of clay by the afternoon, National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said.

The search was postponed Wednesday afternoon due to heavy rain, which made some fear there would be more landslides.

At least 29 others are believed to have been buried by the mud. Kardono said: "It seems there is no possibility of anyone among those 46 surviving."

Officials had earlier said 72 had probably died but later revised the figure down, although the true toll could still be higher.

Another 15 people had been injured, Kardono said, two of whom had been admitted to hospital.

The winding mountain roads made boggy by the days of heavy rain were hampering efforts to get equipment and rescuers to the site, which is about 90 miles southeast of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, Kardono said.

He added that more landslides were possible.

Hundreds evacuated
Some 600 villagers from the region have been evacuated to temporary shelters in safer locations, Kardono said. Most of these were from unaffected nearby villages that were in landslide-prone areas.

Many of the victims were plantation laborers who lived in huts on the plantation. Most of the recovered bodies of men, women and a child were dug up from the residential area.

Villagers unearthed the first victims late Tuesday using farm tools and bare hands.

Vice President Boediono, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, visited the site Wednesday, accompanied by several government ministers.

Landslides are a common hazard in Indonesia during the current latter weeks of the monsoon season.