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Distraught relatives watch as bodies pulled from Indonesia landslides; 87 feared dead

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Posted: December 27, 2007 5:03 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    LEDOKSARI, Indonesia — Crying relatives watched in horror Thursday as rescuers pulled muddy corpses from Indonesian villages devastated by landslides and floods. At least 87 people were dead or missing, and tens of thousands have been forced from their homes.
    Authorities struggled to get tractors and bulldozers over washed out roads 24 hours after torrential rain sent mud crashing into hilly districts of Java island. Hundreds of police, soldiers and residents were digging through the debris with their bare hands, shovels and hoes.
    ‘‘I am searching for my cousin and my sister who are still buried beneath the mud,’’ said Wiryo Hamidi as he waded through the remains of his village. ‘‘I hope we can find them today so I can bury them.’’
    Local officials have given varying death tolls, but Rustam Pakaya, a disaster official in the ministry of health, said 87 people had been killed or were feared dead.
    Most of the victims were from the village of Ledoksari in Karanganyar district, where 12 corpses were recovered Thursday, several of them children, said Heru Aji Pratomo, the head of the local disaster coordinating agency.
    One mother wailed and threw herself to the ground as her daughter’s mud-caked body was put into a black bag and taken away for burial, while another distraught relative held her head and screamed, footage on Metro TV showed.
    ‘‘Podi! Podi!’’ cried another woman, 45-year-old Wagiyem, as she searched for her missing sister at a morgue near the disaster zone. ‘‘Please my God, tell me where she is.’’
    In east Java province, police searched a swollen river after a bridge was swept away Wednesday as several motorbikes were passing over it. Two people were reported missing, said local police Capt. Sunarta, who like Wagiyem uses only one name.
    ‘‘No one else is missing that we know of,’’ he said, adding authorities had tracked down the owners of 13 motorcycles and bicycles recovered from the water.
    Rivers bloated by days of rain burst their banks in the towns of Solo and Sragen, forcing more than 28,000 people to leave their homes, said Pakaya. Witnesses said water levels were a yard high in places.
    Residents scrambled to save their most valuable possessions, from television sets to motorbikes. Others carried the elderly through the water or sat on rooftops, waiting for the floods to subside.
    Seasonal rains and high tides in recent days have caused widespread flooding across much of Indonesia, the world’s fourth most-populous nation. Millions of people live in mountainous regions and near fertile flood plains that are close to rivers.

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