Indonesia: an earthquake kills at least 56 and shakes the island of Java

CIANJUR, Indonesia –

A powerful, shallow earthquake toppled buildings and collapsed walls on Indonesia’s densely populated main island of Java on Monday, killing at least 56 people and injuring hundreds as people rushed into the streets, some covered in blood and white debris.

Rescuers treated the injured on stretchers and blankets outside major hospitals, on terraces and in car parks. Many included children, some of whom received oxygen masks, IV lines and were resuscitated.

« I passed out. It was very strong, » said Hasan, a construction worker who is being treated at Cianjur Regional Hospital. « I saw my friends running to escape the building. But I was too late to get out and was hit by the wall. »

Residents, some crying with children in their arms, fled damaged homes after a 5.6 magnitude earthquake shook the Cianjur region of West Java province late afternoon at a depth 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). It also caused panic in the greater Jakarta area, where skyscrapers swayed and some were evacuated.

Rescue teams and civilians in Cianjur were searching for others who may have been buried in the rubble of collapsed brick houses. The earthquake was powerful enough to knock down walls, pieces of concrete and tiles, some of which landed inside the rooms.

Trader Dewi Risma was working with customers when the earthquake hit and ran for the exit.

« Vehicles on the road stopped because the quake was very strong, » she said. « I felt it shook three times, but the first one was the strongest for about 10 seconds. The roof of the store next to the store I work in collapsed and people said two had been affected. »

Herman Suherman, the head of the Cianjur regency, said the death toll reached 56 on Monday evening. About 700 people were injured, National Disaster Mitigation Agency chief Suharyanto said.

Several landslides have been reported around Cianjur. Among the dozens of buildings that were damaged were an Islamic boarding school, a hospital and other public facilities, the agency said.

Information was still being gathered on the extent of the losses and damage.

Most of the victims and survivors were taken to Cianjur Government Hospital, where emergency tents were erected and workers treated the injured.

The Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency recorded at least 25 aftershocks.

« The earthquake was so strong. My colleagues and I decided to get out of our office on the ninth floor using the emergency stairs, » said Vidi Primadhania, a worker from South Jakarta in the capital, where many residents rushed into the streets and others hid under desks in their offices.

Earthquakes occur frequently in the huge archipelago nation, but they are rarely felt in Jakarta.

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

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 nearly 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.


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