Indonesia Earthquake Death Toll Soars over 265

Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

The death toll from the earthquake that shook the Indonesian island of Java on Monday leapt to 268 on Tuesday as more bodies were found beneath collapsed buildings, and 151 people are still missing, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said. Agency head Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name, told reporters that another 1,083 people were injured in the 5.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Monday afternoon near the city of Cianjur.  

Cianjur, in the country's most densely populated province of West Java, was near the epicenter of the temblor on Monday afternoon, which sent terrified residents fleeing into the streets, some covered in blood and debris. 

Blocked roads and damaged bridges prevented rescuers from bringing excavators and other heavy equipment to the rural area to help dig out survivors until Tuesday.  

In addition to those killed, authorities reported more than 300 people were seriously hurt and at least 600 more suffered minor injuries. It was not immediately clear how many remain missing. 

With hospitals already overwhelmed, patients lay on stretchers and cots in tents set up outside, with intravenous drips in their arms as they awaited further treatment.

Many of the dead were public school students who had finished their classes for the day and were taking extra lessons at Islamic schools when the buildings collapsed, West Java Gov. Ridwan Kamil said.

Operations were focused on about a dozen locations in Cianjur, where people were still believed trapped, said Endra Atmawidjaja, the public works and housing spokesperson.

"We are racing against time to rescue people," Atmawidjaja said, adding that seven excavators and 10 large trucks had been deployed from neighboring Bandung and Bogor cities to continue clearing trees and soil that blocked roads.

Cargo trucks carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from Jakarta were arriving early Tuesday in temporary shelters. Still, thousands spent the night in the open fearing aftershocks.

President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur Tuesday to reassure people of the government's response in reaching those in need.

"On behalf of myself and on behalf of the government, I would like to express my deep condolences to the victims and their families in this Cianjur earthquake," he said after visiting survivors in shelters on a soccer field.

He pledged to rebuild infrastructure, including the main bridge connecting Cianjur to other cities, and to provide government assistance up to 50 million rupiah ($3,180) to each resident whose house was damaged.

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

The quake struck at a depth of 6.2 miles. It also caused panic in the greater Jakarta area, about a three hour-drive away, where high-rises swayed and some people evacuated.

The country of more than 270 million people is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the arc of volcanoes and fault lines 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.

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

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