JAKARTA, Indonesia - Rescuers dug through mountains of mud yesterday in search of survivors from landslides in western Indonesia, some using bare hands because blocked roads delayed the arrival of heavy-lifting equipment.
At least 78 people were feared dead - most in a single landslide in the Karanganyar district that buried a late-night dinner party, a rescue official said. The victims had just cleaned a mud-covered home.
"They were having dinner together when they were hit by another landslide," search-and-rescue chief Eko Prayitno said. "At least 61 people were buried."
In nearby Wonogiri district, 17 were feared dead when landslides hit their homes after a half-day of nonstop rain.
Hundreds of soldiers, police and volunteers struggled to get heavy-lifting equipment to villages on the main island of Java, but roads blocked by the mud and flooding were hampering the rescue efforts, Prayitno said.
Thousands of houses were inundated yesterday, from Java to Sumatra to Sulawesi island, farther east, witnesses and media reports said. Some fleeing residents tried salvaging possessions from the rising waters by using tires to float their televisions and refrigerators to higher ground.
The latest disasters came on the third anniversary of the quake off Sumatra that triggered a devastating tsunami.