At least 268 dead in Indonesia earthquake, search for missing continues

CIANJUR, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian rescuers used jackhammers, circular saws and sometimes their bare hands on Tuesday to move the rubble of flattened buildings as they searched for the dead and missing from an earthquake that killed at least 268 people.

With many missing, some remote areas still inaccessible and more than 1,000 people injured in the 5.6 magnitude quake, the death toll was likely to rise. Hospitals near the epicenter of the densely populated island of Java were already overwhelmed, and patients hooked up to IV drips were lying on stretchers and beds in tents set up outside, awaiting further treatment.

Indonesia is hit by frequent earthquakes, many much stronger than Monday’s, the magnitude of which is generally expected to cause minor damage. But experts said the quake’s shallow depth and poor infrastructure contributed to the severe damage, including collapsed roofs and large piles of bricks, concrete and corrugated iron.

READ MORE: At least 162 dead after strong quake topples homes in Java, Indonesia

The quake was centered in the rural, mountainous district of Cianjur, where a woman said her house had started “shaking as if dancing”.

“I was crying and immediately grabbed my husband and children,” said Partinem, who like many Indonesians has only one name. The house collapsed shortly after she escaped with her family.

“If I hadn’t removed them, we could have been victims too,” she said, looking over the pile of broken concrete and wood.

More than 2.5 million people live in Cianjur district, including about 175,000 in the main city of the same name.

The earthquake struck at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and also caused panic in the capital of Jakarta, about three hours away, where skyscrapers swayed and some people were evacuated.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency chief Suharyanto, who uses a single name, told reporters that 1,083 people had been injured and at least 151 missing. But not all of the dead have been identified, so it’s possible that some of the bodies pulled from the rubble belong to people on the missing list.

Rescue operations have focused on a dozen places in Cianjur, where people are still believed to be trapped, said Endra Atmawidjaja, spokesman for public works and housing.

LOOK: Indonesia earthquake kills at least 162

“We are racing against time to save people,” Atmawidjaja said.

Early rescue attempts were hampered by damaged roads and bridges, power outages and a lack of equipment to help move the heavy rubble. By Tuesday, power supply and telephone communications had started to improve, and Atmawidjaja said seven excavators and 10 large trucks had been deployed from nearby areas to clear the roads.

In the village of Cijedil, the quake triggered a landslide that blocked streets and buried several houses, said Henri Alfiandi, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency.

“We are maximizing operations in several places where it is suspected that there are still casualties. Our team is also trying to reach remote areas,” he said.

Most of the dead were public school students who had completed their classes for the day and were taking additional lessons at Islamic schools when the buildings collapsed, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said.

More than 13,000 people whose homes were badly damaged were taken to evacuation centers, Kamil said, although thousands spent the night in the open fearing aftershocks.

Cargo trucks carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from the capital, Jakarta, arrived early Tuesday at temporary shelters.

Outside Cianjur Regional Hospital, hundreds of people were waiting for treatment.

“I was working in my office building. The building was not damaged, but as the earthquake shook very strongly, many things fell. My leg was hit by heavy objects,” said Dwi Sarmadi, who works for an Islamic educational foundation in a nearby district.

He was waiting near a tent outside the hospital after some overwhelmed clinics couldn’t see him. Many people arrived in worse condition. “I really hope they can handle me soon,” he said.

Hasan, a construction worker who uses only one name, was also taken to hospital.

“I passed out. It was very strong,” Hasan recalled. “I saw my friends running to escape from the building. But it was too late to get out and I was hit by the wall.

President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur on Tuesday and pledged to rebuild infrastructure, including the main bridge linking Cianjur to other cities, and provide government aid of up to 50 million rupees ($3,180 ) to each resident whose home was damaged.

“On my behalf and on behalf of the government, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the victims and their families during this Cianjur earthquake,” he said after visiting survivors in shelters on a plot. of football.

The country of more than 270 million people is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location on the arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific basin known as the from “Ring of Fire”.

In February, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500 in West Sulawesi province.

A powerful earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004 killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.

Tarigan reported from Jakarta. Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.


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