Indonesia earthquake death toll rises to 268; There are still 151 to go
The death toll from the earthquake that rocked the Indonesian island of Java jumped to 268 on Tuesday as more bodies were found under collapsed buildings and 151 people were still missing, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said.
Agency chief Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, told reporters another 1,083 people were injured in the 5.6-magnitude earthquake that struck near the city of Cianjur on Monday afternoon .
The tremor sent terrified residents fleeing into the streets, some covered in blood and debris, and caused buildings in the countryside to collapse.
One woman told The Associated Press that when the earthquake struck, her house in Cianjur started “shaking like it was dancing.”
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“I was crying and I immediately grabbed my husband and my children,” said the woman, who only gave her name as Partinem. The house collapsed shortly after she escaped with her family.
“If I didn’t take them out, we might have been victims too,” he said, looking over the pile of concrete and wooden debris.
In addition to the dead, authorities reported that more than 300 people were seriously injured and at least 600 others suffered minor injuries.
In the village of Cijedil, northwest of Cianjur, the quake triggered a landslide that blocked streets and buried several houses, said Henri Alfiandi, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency.
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“We are maximizing operations at various points where victims are suspected to be still there. Our team is also trying to reach remote areas,” he said. “For us, all victims are a priority, our goal is to find them and save lives by getting them evacuated as soon as possible and getting medical help.”
With hospitals already overwhelmed, patients lay on stretchers and cots in tents set up outside, with intravenous drips in their arms as they waited for further treatment.
Many of the dead were public school students who had finished classes for the day and were doing extra classes at Islamic schools when the buildings collapsed, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said.
Early rescue attempts were hampered by damaged roads and bridges and power outages, and a lack of heavy equipment to help move the heavy concrete debris. By Tuesday, power sources and telephone communications had begun to improve.
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Operations focused on a dozen locations in Cianjur, where people are still believed to be trapped, said Endra Atmawidjaja, a spokesman for public works and housing.
“We are fighting against time to rescue people,” Atmawidjaja said, adding that seven bulldozers and 10 large trucks had been deployed from the neighboring cities of Bandung and Bogor to continue clearing trees and soil blocking roads .
Cargo trucks carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from Jakarta arrived in temporary shelters early Tuesday. Still, thousands spent the night outdoors fearing aftershocks.
“The buildings were completely flattened,” said Dwi Sarmadi, who works for an Islamic educational foundation in a neighboring district.
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President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur on Tuesday to reassure people about the government’s response to reach those in need.
“On behalf of myself and the government, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the victims and their families of this Cianjur earthquake,” he said after visiting survivors in shelters at a soccer field.
It pledged to rebuild infrastructure, including the main bridge connecting Cianjur to other cities, and to provide government assistance of up to 50 million rupiah ($3,180) to each resident whose house was damaged.
About 175,000 people live in Cianjur, part of a mountainous district of the same name with more than 2.5 million inhabitants. Known for their piety, the people of Cianjur live mainly in cities of one- and two-story buildings and in smaller houses in the surrounding countryside.
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Kamil said more than 13,000 people whose houses were badly damaged were taken to evacuation centers. Outside the Cianjur Regional Hospital, hundreds waited for treatment.
“I was working inside my office building. The building was not damaged, but because the earthquake shook so hard, many things fell. My leg was hit by heavy things,” Sarmadi said.
He was waiting near a tent outside the hospital after some overwhelmed clinics couldn’t see him. Many people came in worse shape. “I really hope they can handle me soon,” he said.
Hasan, a construction worker who, like many Indonesians, uses one name, was also among the survivors who were taken to hospital.
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“I passed out. It was really loud,” Hasan recalled. “I saw my friends running to escape the building. But it was too late to get out and I was hit by the wall.”
The earthquake occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 mi). It also caused panic in the greater Jakarta area, about a three-hour drive away, where buildings swayed and some people evacuated.
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 faults in the Pacific basin known as the “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.
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A powerful Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.