Indonesia earthquake: Search underway as 5.6-tremor leaves dozens dead in West Java

Jakarta, Indonesia

Rescuers dig through debris Tuesday to find survivors of a powerful earthquake that toppled homes and buildings in a heavily populated area of ​​Indonesia’s West Java province, killing more than 100 people.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck the Cianjur region of West Java at around 1:21 p.m. local time on Monday at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), causing a landslide of buildings while classes were in progress.

On Tuesday, the death toll rose to 103, with most crushed under collapsed buildings, according to the country’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB). Earlier, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said more than 160 had been killed – the reason for the discrepancy remains unclear.

A villager looks at damaged houses in Cianjur on November 22, 2022.

Photos showed buildings reduced to rubble, with bricks and scraps of broken metal strewn across the streets. More than 700 people have been injured and thousands displaced, according to BNPB.

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“Most of those who died were children,” Kamil told reporters on Monday, adding that the death toll was likely to rise further. “So many incidents happened in several Islamic schools.”

Villagers salvage items from damaged houses after a magnitude 5.6 earthquake in Cianjur on November 22, 2022.

Strong tremors forced children to flee classrooms, according to the Save the Children aid group, which said more than 50 schools had been affected.

Mia Saharosa, a teacher at one of the affected schools, said the earthquake “was a shock to all of us,” according to the group.

“We all gathered on the field, the kids were terrified and crying, worried about their families back home,” Saharosa said. “We hug each other, we strengthen each other and we continue to pray.”

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Municipal officials in Cianjur evacuate an injured colleague after the earthquake.

Herman Suhrman, a government official in Sianjur, told media that some residents were trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings. News channel Metro TV showed what appeared to be hundreds of victims being treated in a hospital parking lot.

Television footage showed residents huddled outside buildings almost completely reduced to rubble, according to Reuters.

One resident, named only as Muhlis, said he felt a “huge shake” and that the walls and ceiling of his office were damaged.

“I was very shocked. I was worried that there would be another earthquake,” he told Metro TV.

Workers inspect a school damaged in the earthquake in Sianjur, West Java.

Indonesia’s Bureau of Meteorology, BMKG, warned of the danger of landslides, especially in case of heavy rain, as 25 aftershocks were recorded in the first two hours after the earthquake.

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Rescuers could not immediately reach some of the trapped people, he said, adding that the situation remained chaotic.

Government authorities are building tents and shelters for the victims while taking care of their basic needs.

A school building collapsed in Cianjur after the earthquake.

Indonesia sits on the “Ring of Fire,” a band around the Pacific Ocean that causes frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. One of the most seismically active zones on the planet, it stretches from Japan and Indonesia on one side of the Pacific to California and South America on the other.

In 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the island of Sumatra in northern Indonesia triggered a tsunami that hit 14 countries, killing 226,000 people along the Indian Ocean coast, more than half of them in Indonesia.


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