JAKARTA, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from a landslide triggered by heavy rain in Indonesia's West Java province earlier has risen to at least 18, while 15 others remain missing, disaster agency official said on Friday.
The natural disaster devastated Sinaresmi village of Sukabumi district on Monday leaving three villagers seriously injured, spokesman of national disaster management agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
As many as 29 houses were buried by soils sliding from a hill when heavy downpours hit the village. A total of 63 villagers survived the landslides and were taking shelters in safer places, said Sutopo.
More than 1,000 soldiers, police personnel, the personnel from search and rescue office, disaster management agency and volunteers were scrambling to find the missing villagers, said Sutopo.
The major obstacle of the search operation is the rain. When the weather is clear, the operation can be undertaken until night but the efforts would be terminated earlier when it is raining, he told Xinhua in a text message.
To pave the ongoing emergency relief efforts, Sutopo said, the local administration has declared an emergency status from Dec. 31 to Jan. 6.
Other smaller-scale landslides have stricken since the major landslide on Monday, he said.
"The loose in soil texture and instable soil conditions have endangered rescuers particularly when rains fall," he added.
Indonesia is frequently stricken by landslides and flash floods during the rain season.