Authorities say most of dead from the 5.6-magnitude quake that devastated Cianjur were children
Indonesian rescue workers were racing to reach people still trapped in rubble one day after an earthquake struck the main island of Java, as the death toll rose to 252.
Monday afternoon’s quake, centred in the Cianjur region of West Java province, struck at a depth of 6.2 miles (10km), triggering landslides and damaging buildings, including thousands of homes.
The number of people killed is unclear. In an Instagram post on Tuesday the local government said 252 were confirmed dead, with 31 missing, 377 injured and 7,060 displaced.
Ridwan Kamil, the governor of West Java, said the majority of the dead were children, many of them students taking extra lessons. “So many incidents occurred at several Islamic schools,” he said. Authorities were operating “under the assumption that the number of injured and [dead] will rise with time”.
Provisional data released by the authorities and cited by Save the Children said about 51 education sites were affected, including 30 elementary schools, 12 junior high schools, one high school, five vocational schools and one special school.
At a local hospital, overwhelmed by the number of patients, the injured lay on the floor on mattresses and blankets, or under makeshift tents. On Monday night, victims were treated in the dark, under torchlight, due to widespread power cuts.
“Everything collapsed beneath me and I was crushed beneath this child,” Cucu, a 48-year-old resident, told Reuters from the crowded hospital parking area. “Two of my kids survived, I dug them up … Two others I brought here, and one is still missing,” she said through tears.
BNPB said at least 25 people were still buried under the rubble in Cianjur as darkness fell on Monday. Efforts to reach victims been complicated by power failures, damaged roads and more than 80 aftershocks.
On Tuesday morning, hundreds of police officers had been deployed to assist in rescue efforts, Dedi Prasetyo, the national police spokesperson, told the Antara state news agency. “Today’s main task order for personnel is to focus on evacuating victims,” he said.
Officials were working on Tuesday to reach the area of Cugenang, which had been blocked off by a landslide.
The earthquake damaged at least 2,200 homes and displaced more than 5,000 people, the national disaster agency (BNPB) said. It said it had confirmed the deaths of 62 people, but had not verified 100 additional victims.
Mus Mustopa, who lives in Padaluyu, a village in Cianjur, told Indonesia’s Kompas TV he helped a family recover the body of an 80-year-old woman who had died in the quake. It happened suddenly, he said. “I wasn’t prepared and saw houses reduced to rubble … Some 50 houses are damaged, with around 10 being heavily damaged.”
Several landslides were reported across Cianjur.
Ima Mafazah, a volunteer with the Indonesian Red Cross, said tremors continued late into the evening on Monday. “Until now, the earthquake still happens, but not as big as before. A minute ago it happened again. Many people don’t want to stay at their homes,” she said, adding that people were traumatised, afraid and sleeping outside.
Homes had been damaged across a wide area and access was difficult due to cracked roads, said Mafazah. Nurses had been sent by the Indonesian Red Cross on motorbikes to reach the injured in four of the worst-affected areas, about one hour from the main town, that were otherwise inaccessible.
The US Geological Surveys’s Pager system estimated that up to 242,000 people were exposed to “very strong shaking” and up to 978,000 people to “strong shaking”. The quake was felt 60 miles (100km) away in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, where high-rise buildings swayed.
Mayadita Waluyo, a 22-year-old lawyer, told Agence France-Presse that panicked workers ran for the exits of their building in Jakarta as the quake struck. “I was working when the floor under me was shaking. I could feel the tremor clearly,” she said.
Indonesia is especially vulnerable to earthquakes because of its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, the most seismically and volcanically active zone in the world.
In February, a magnitude-6.2 earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 others in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a quake of similar magnitude killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500 in West Sulawesi province.
A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed nearly 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report