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Landslide Kills over 200 in Indonesia
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The death toll of Tuesday's landslide and flood in Indonesia's South Sulawesi province reached over 200, and it could increase further as the rescue teams are still searching for 128 missing people, a local official said on Thursday.

There are still many data of the fatalities that have not yet reported to the provincial post of the counter disaster, said Saharudin Rahmad, an official in charge in the provincial counter-disaster post.

"The number possibly will rise, as there are still many houses and areas which have not yet touched the rescue team," Saharudin Rahmad, an official in charge in the provincial counter-disaster post in Makasar, the capital of the province told Xinhua.

"The data reported to us now is 200 death and 128 missing," he said.

Indonesian Minister of Forestry Malam Sambat Kaban said that the cause of the flood and landslide in the province was the lack of forest coverage on the land, which was resulted from the accumulative failure of reforestation for decades in the past.

"The coverage of forest now in Sulawesi is only 27 percent (of the total areas), less than the minimum requirement of 30 percent," he said.

However, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said earlier that the illegal logging was the cause of the flood and landslide.

Indonesian Environmental Minister Rahmat Witoelar said, quoted by the local television of SCTV, that he would limit the issuance of the right for logging company, which he blamed have contributed on the natural disaster.

Indonesia has a total of 162 million hectares forest, the second largest tropical forest area of the world after Brazil, that covers 84 percent of its total land area, according to data from the World Wide Fund (WWF).

Minister Kaban said that 59 million hectares out of the 162 million hectares forest was damaged.

"The tragedy in Sinjai (South Sulawesi) is an indication for the nation that the good forest is only in Kalimantan and Papua (islands)," said Kaban.

The minister said that the big island of Sulawesi and Maluku as well as Java are also sensitive from flood and landslide as their forest coverage is less than minimum requirement.

"Sulawesi, Maluku and Java islands are vulnerable, if rains come down for three hours, the accident like in Sinjai will take place," he said.

"Now there must be an awareness not to disturb the rest of the forest areas," he said.

Indonesia, which is located in tropical areas, often suffers from landslide due to rampant deforestation.

(Xinhua News Agency June 23, 2006)

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