JAKARTA - Indonesian rescuers on Sunday used heavy-lifting equipment for the first time to clear roads leading to the site of a landslide that destroyed a village and killed at least 24 people, officials said, with scores still missing.
Police, soldiers and volunteers had used their bare hands and makeshift tools to search for survivors and clear the area on Saturday after the disaster struck on Friday night.
Hundreds have been evacuated from around Jemblung village in the Banjarnegara district of central Java, about 450 km (280 miles) from the capital, Jakarta, where media pictures showed a flood of mud and water cascading down a wooded mountainside.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said 20 people had been killed, 84 were missing and 577 people from the surrounding areas had been taken to temporary shelters.
There were 2,000 rescuers involved in the operation on Sunday, he said. "We hope we can operate all of the heavy equipment today,"Nugroho told Reuters. "We could not operate the equipment soon after the landslide. We had to be very careful about the stability of the ground."
President Joko Widodo was headed for the site where he said he would assess whether more heavy-lifting equipment was needed. "We're going to the field to understand the situation," Widodo, who was sworn in as president in October, told reporters.
"Aid is not a problem, what is most important is the speed of the evacuation." Mudslides are common in Indonesia during the monsoon season, which usually runs from October until April.
Despite a history of similar disasters in the area, there was no heavy equipment specifically set aside for Banjarnegara, Nugroho said. There had been a fatal landslide in 2007 but people still chose to live there, he said.