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17 dead, nearly 100 missing in Indonesian landslide: official
by Staff Writers
Jemblung, Indonesia (AFP) Dec 13, 2014

Mayor of deadly French flood village jailed for 4 years
Paris (AFP) Dec 12, 2014 - A French court Friday sentenced the former mayor of a small seaside village to four years in prison for concealing flood risks that led to the death of 29 people in a brutal storm.

The court ruled that Rene Marratier was aware of the risks of flooding in La Faute-sur-Mer on the western coast but "deliberately hid" them so as not to miss out on the "cash-cow" of property development.

Marratier immediately announced his intention to appeal.

A total of 29 residents, mainly elderly people and young children, drowned in bungalows when the seawall protecting La Faute-sur-Mer gave way, exposing its roughly 1,000 citizens to the fury of the stormy sea.

The 2010 storm "Xynthia" unleashed gale force winds and torrential rains, destroying roads and houses along the Atlantic coast, leaving 53 dead in France.

It was the fiercest storm to have battered France since 1999 and left more than 170,000 homes without power.

The storm also resulted in deaths in neighbouring Germany, Spain and Belgium and killed one person as far away as Portugal.

Francoise Babin, in charge of building permits for La Faute-sur-Mer, which is in the Vendee region, was sentenced to two years behind bars and fined 75,000 euros ($93,000).

Her son Philippe was sentenced to 18 months in jail for not ensuring that the seawall was being monitored on the night of the storm, February 27, 2010.

The prosecutor said there had been a "building frenzy" in La Faute-sur-Mer that had directly led to the deaths.

Marratier's lawyer countered that his client was being tried to "please the victims". The former mayor described himself as a "scapegoat".

Torrential downpours triggered a landslide on Indonesia's main island of Java, killing at least 17 people and leaving nearly 100 others missing, with persistent rain hampering rescue efforts, officials said Saturday.

Hundreds of rescuers were digging with shovels through mud and rubble after the landslide buried scores of houses in Jemblung village in central Java late Friday, the national disaster agency said.

The landslide swept down a hillside in the village, sparing only two houses, an AFP correspondent said.

"The rescue team have found 17 bodies," the national disaster agency's spokesman, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, told AFP, adding that 11 others were badly injured and rescuers were searching for 91 people still missing.

The disaster agency said that 200 rescuers and 500 volunteers had joined the search for the missing.

Heavy excavation equipment was also imported into the area to speed up the rescue work, which had to be halted on Saturday afternoon as fresh downpours sparked fears of more landslides.

Eyewitnesses said they heard a "thundering sound" as the ground shook when the landslide came crashing down and buried the tiny village.

"I ran carrying my daughter to higher ground, and I was crying because I could hear people calling out for help from below," Bini, who like many Indonesians goes by one name said. Her husband and 14-year-old son are still missing.

"It took just five minutes before soil and trees suddenly covered the village," another survivor, Harno, said.

Rescue efforts have been slow because the ground was still unstable. Thousands of curios bystanders have also caused traffic jams, hampering operations.

Bad phone signal in the area have made coordinating rescuing efforts difficult, officials added.

The search and rescue agency said that the operation would only resume once the rain stopped.

If the downpours persist, the search would resume early Sunday, it added.

"We pray to God that we can still find survivors," the head of central Java search and rescue agency, Agus Haryono, told AFP.

Landslides triggered by heavy rains and floods are common in tropical Indonesia during the rainy season.

The national disaster agency estimates around half the country's 250 million population lives in areas prone to landslides.

The vast Indonesian archipelago is one of the most natural-disaster-prone nations on Earth, and is also frequently hit by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

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