162 dead as earthquake in Indonesia topples homes, buildings and roads

CIANJUR, Indonesia (AP) — Rescuers searched for bodies and survivors on Tuesday from the rubble of buildings that collapsed in an earthquake that killed at least 162 people on Indonesia’s main island of Java and injured hundreds more, overwhelming hospitals.

Excavators, trucks and other heavy equipment sent overnight reached the hardest hit town of Cianjur, south Jakarta. The city, in the country’s most densely populated province of West Java, was near the epicenter of a 5.6 magnitude quake on Monday afternoon, which sent terrified residents fleeing through the streets, some covered in blood and debris.

A woman told The Associated Press that when the earthquake hit her home in Cianjur, the building started « shaking like it was dancing ».

« I was crying and immediately grabbed my husband and children, » said the woman, who only gave her name as Partinem. 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 concrete and wood rubble.

In addition to those killed, authorities reported that more than 300 people were seriously injured and at least 600 others suffered minor injuries. It is not immediately clear how many people are still missing.

In the village of Cijedil, northwest of Cianjur, the earthquake triggered a landslide that blocked streets and buried several houses, and reports said 25 people were still buried, said Henri Alfiandi, chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency.

“We are maximizing operations in several places where there are still suspected casualties. Our team is also trying to reach remote areas,” he said. “For us, all casualties are a priority, our goal is to find them and save lives by evacuating them as soon as possible and obtaining medical help. »

With hospitals already overwhelmed, patients were lying on stretchers and beds in tents set up outside, with IV drips in their arms awaiting further treatment.

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.

Early rescue attempts were hampered by damaged roads and bridges, power outages and a lack of heavy equipment to help move the heavy concrete rubble. By Tuesday, power supplies and telephone communications had begun to improve.

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

« We are racing against time to save people, » Atmawidjaja said, adding that seven excavators and 10 large trucks had been deployed from nearby towns of Bandung and Bogor to continue clearing trees and soil that were blocking roads.

Trucks carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from Jakarta arrived early Tuesday at temporary shelters. Yet thousands of people spent the night in the open, fearing aftershocks.

« The buildings have been completely razed, » said Dwi Sarmadi, who works for an Islamic educational foundation in a nearby neighborhood.

President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur on Tuesday to reassure people about the government’s response to reach those in need.

“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.

He pledged to rebuild infrastructure, including the main bridge linking Cianjur with other towns, and provide the government with aid of up to 50 million rupees ($3,180) for each resident whose home was damaged. .

About 175,000 people live in Cianjur, which is part of a mountainous district of the same name with more than 2.5 million inhabitants. Known for their piety, the people of Cianjur mostly live in towns of one- and two-story buildings and in smaller houses in the surrounding countryside.

Kamil said more than 13,000 people whose homes were badly damaged had been taken to evacuation centers. 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,” Sarmadi said.

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 like many Indonesians uses only one name, was also one of the survivors who was 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.

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

Andi Jatmiko and Edna Tarigan, The Associated Press


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