Landslides Wipe Out 4 Indonesian Villages

Another 640 people feared dead in remote areas
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 3, 2009 11:26 AM CDT
People survey the damage in this aerial photo taken in West Sumatra.   (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
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(Newser) – At least four Indonesian villages were obliterated by earthquake-triggered landslides that buried as many as 644 people under mountains of mud and debris. Most of the victims were members of a communal wedding party. It's not clear exactly when the landslides occurred, but the full extent of Wednesday's 7.6-magnitude earthquake is becoming apparent as aid workers reach remote villages along Sumatra island's western coast.

If all 644 are confirmed dead—as is likely—the official death toll would jump to more than 1,300. "They were sucked (100 feet) deep into the earth," said a relief official at one village. "Even the mosque's minaret, taller than (65 feet), disappeared." The government's death toll currently is 715—though relief agencies peg it at more than 1,000—with most casualties reported from the region's biggest city, Padang. More than 3,000 people were listed as missing before the news about the obliterated villages emerged. (Read more Padang stories.)