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Search Continues For Landslide Victims in Java

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says efforts are continuing to rescue survivors and to uncover victims of the deadly landslides that devastated large parts of central Java, Indonesia last week. In Geneva, Lisa Schlein reports the Red Cross says more than 100 people have been killed in the disaster.

The landslides hit central Java on December 26, exactly three years after the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami struck Indonesia and 13 other countries. The scale of this latest disaster is far less than that of the tsunami. Nevertheless, it looms large for the people whose lives have been shattered.

The head of delegation in Indonesia for the International Red Cross Federation, Bob McKerrow, calls the situation alarming. In a telephone interview from Jakarta, he told VOA more than 25,000 lives have been affected by the landslides.

"People need to be rescued. People need goods like we have taken. The Indonesian Red Cross has put up field kitchens...They have got medical clinics, ambulance services to evacuate the seriously injured. And, of course, for the women, the children and the elderly, we are targeting them with family kits, which gives them essential clothing and also hygiene kits," McKerrow said. "People need to keep themselves clean in these situations. We have a fairly good program underway, which includes temporary shelter, such as tents for those that have lost their homes."

Red Cross officials say dozens of houses are buried under mud. They say rescue workers are still trying to dig through the mud and debris in a search for victims.

Landslides and floods are frequent occurrences in Indonesia, which is in the midst of its three-month rainy season. And, environmentalists warn years of deforestation are likely to intensify the damage from these natural hazards.

McKerrow says the Red Cross has an efficient network of volunteers that are rescuing people and monitoring communities and their needs. But he says people sometimes are missed.

"I think my greatest fears are people in remote mountain areas that are either trapped or who have lost everything and nobody has gone out to give them help. That is always the worry," he said. "Often we help the most visible, but the most vulnerable are often another 10 kilometers inland and out of sight. And that is why while we do assessment and relief, we keep pushing in more teams into the remote areas just to make sure that people are being noticed and helped."

McKerrow says landslides, floods and other potential disasters in Indonesia will have to be carefully monitored until the rainy season ends in another two months.