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Flooded Indonesian Island Is Popular Tourist Attraction

A massive landslide on a remote Indonesian island has buried as many as three villages, killing scores of people and leaving hundreds missing. Officials say unseasonable rainstorms triggered the landslide and heavy flooding is reported throughout the island.

The landslide struck without warning late Tuesday on Nias island, located about 100 kilometers off the northwest coast of Sumatra and more than 1,300 kilometers northwest of the capital, Jakarta.

The remote island is famous with surfers who come to participate in international surfing competitions every June and July.

Rescue workers have been sent to Sambulu village in the island's mountainous interior to help search for hundreds of people believed to have been buried under tons of debris and mudflow. Survivors say more than 100 houses were swept away and hundreds more damaged.

Indonesian Red Cross relief official John Ferdinand Mamoedi in Jakarta adds that two rivers in the surrounding countryside burst their banks during the night, causing widespread flooding. He describes the overall situation on Nias island as grim and dangerous.

"Last night at 11 o'clock, there were flashfloods affecting three sub-districts on that island," he said. "These flashfloods affected four villages. "We will send plastic sheets. We will also provide emergency health kits for 10,000 people for three months and used clothes."

But getting emergency assistance to Nias could be a difficult task. Many villages in the interior are inaccessible by road and the island only has one small airstrip for planes.

Before the torrential rains began, geologists say three earthquakes measuring between 5.3 and 5.4 in magnitude rocked an area near Nias in the Indian Ocean Tuesday. Experts speculate the quakes may have jarred the earth loose and contributed to the mudslide.

Flooding and landslides kill hundreds of people every year in Indonesia. But environmentalists say death tolls are rising because loggers and villagers needing firewood are rapidly stripping away the vegetation in many parts of the country.