Hillside crashes onto Indonesian farmers; 5 dead, 18 missing

People take photos of a landslide in Brebes, Indonesia February 22, 2018, in this image obtained from social media. (Aji Santoso/via REUTERS)
Updated 23 February 2018
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Hillside crashes onto Indonesian farmers; 5 dead, 18 missing

BREBES, Indonesia: Farmers were working in their rice paddies on the Indonesian island of Java, when the soggy hillside above them collapsed under the weight of torrential rains, killing five people and leaving rescuers digging for 18 missing.
Survivors described a sudden roar as Thursday’s landslide was unleashed, sweeping trees and everything else in its path toward the terraced rice fields below.
“The hill above us looked like it was spinning down,” said Watirah, a 53-year-old farmer from Pasir Panjang village, who with other villagers from the affected hamlet in Central Java’s Brebes district tried to outrun the sliding earth.
“I tried to keep going, tried to stand up and screamed loudly for help before I fell again,” said Watirah, who goes by a single name. “I felt my body was so weak I couldn’t stand up, but three people came to save me,” she said. Her husband, Minarto, who was working in a nearby field, also narrowly survived.
Hundreds of rescuers including soldiers and villagers were using their bare hands and farm tools to search for victims buried beneath tons of mud and soil. The search and rescue team was having difficulty finding victims because of the unstable muddy conditions and width of the landslide.
“Heavy equipment cannot be used,” said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
Sutopo said 14 people were hospitalized with injuries. He said 18 others are missing based on reports from residents.
Local disaster official Eko Andalas said the landslide, which started in surrounding hills that are part of a forestry plantation, was triggered by torrential rains.
Disaster officials urged people to stay away from the area because of the risk of further landslides.
Seasonal rains cause widespread flooding and landslides across much of Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands. Millions of people live in mountainous regions and on flood plains.


EU leaders urged to ‘step up’ Brexit no-deal plans

Serious divergences remain on the backstop for (Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic). More work clearly needed, Michel Barnier tweeted. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 20 sec ago
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EU leaders urged to ‘step up’ Brexit no-deal plans

  • The June 28-29 summit in Brussels was long set as the deadline for Britain to provide its detailed offer on the fate of the Irish border

BRUSSELS: EU leaders will be asked to accelerate contingency plans in the event of failed Brexit negotiations with Britain, according to draft conclusions of a key European summit to be held next week.
The European Council, which groups the EU’s 28 member states, “renews its call upon member states and all stakeholders to step up their work on preparedness at all levels and for all outcomes,” said a harshly worded draft document seen by AFP on Wednesday.
The spectre of no deal had subsided in December after Britain agreed in principle on several EU red lines, including the hot-button issue of Ireland, that London agreed to flesh out later.
The June 28-29 summit in Brussels was long set as the deadline for Britain to provide its detailed offer on the fate of the Irish border.
This was to include the controversial idea of a “backstop” that would keep a non-EU Northern Ireland inside the bloc’s customs union, barring a better solution.
But overwhelmed by political turmoil within her own Conservative Party, British Prime Minister Theresa May has so far failed to submit a compromise that satisfies the Europeans in time for the summit.
The Council, which is headed by EU President Donald Tusk, “expresses its concern that no substantial progress has yet been achieved on agreeing a backstop solution for Ireland/Northern Ireland,” the draft said.
“Negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far are respected in full.”
After a round of talks in Brussels, the EU had already on Tuesday underlined problems, noting the “serious divergences” on Ireland despite progress on several technical components of the Brexit negotiations.
“We are not there yet: serious divergences remain on the backstop for (Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic). More work clearly needed,” EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Twitter.
At the European summit, Barnier will present the state of play in Brexit negotiations to the assembled heads of state and government.
The EU hopes a final version of the withdrawal agreement, together with a political declaration on the future relationship between London and the EU, can be approved by October so that it can be ratified by the Brexit deadline of the end of March 2019.