8 May 2008

Papua landslide death toll rises

10:48 am on 8 May 2008

The death toll from a landslide in Indonesia's province of Papua rose to 19 as bad weather forced a halt to the search for survivors.

A spokesman for Freeport Indonesia, which operates a nearby mine, said it was unclear how many people had been buried when a cliff slid down on an illegal mining operation late on Monday.

Spokesman Mindo Pangaribuan says it had to halt the search efforts because of the bad weather but so far a total of 19 bodies had been found.

Mr Pangaribuan said the victims were all illegal gold panners working on tailings from the Freeport mine but were not inside Freeport's concession area as claimed earlier by police.

The landslide took place late on Monday evening in an area about 3,000 metres above sea level which is continuously shrouded by mist.

Freeport Indonesia, a subsidiary of US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, said its operations had not been affected by the landslide.