Death toll from Indonesia quake soars past 250; scores more still missing

Dandy Koswaraputra and Pizaro Gozali Idrus
Death toll from Indonesia quake soars past 250; scores more still missing A rescuer walks among the rubble of collapsed buildings during a rescue operation after an earthquake hit Cianjur, in West Java, Indonesia, Nov. 22, 2022,
[Antara Foto/Yulius Satria Wijaya/via Reuters]

The death toll from an earthquake in Indonesia’s West Java province rose to 268, with many of the killed reportedly children who were hit by falling rubble while attending after-school classes, officials said Tuesday.

Around 151 people were still missing after Monday’s 5.6-magnitude quake, which was centered in a town in Cianjur, a regency in densely populated West Java, the country’s disaster management agency said.

“We are trying our best to find all the missing victims,” said Suharyanto, head of the agency.

More than 1,000 people were injured and 58,000 displaced, he said. 

Rescue workers had found 14 bodies buried in a landslide unleashed by the temblor, said Army chief Gen. Dudung Abdurachman, who led soldiers who took part in clearing debris.  

“We are still looking for more victims,” he said.

West Java Gov. Ridwan Kamil said many of the dead were children, who were crushed by falling debris while attending religious classes after school.

“Many children died while they were attending madrassa. After they finished midday prayers and regular school, they attend religious classes,” Ridwan told Vice President Ma’ruf Amin in a video call.

An earthquake of Monday’s magnitude occurs roughly every two decades in that area because of the presence of the so-called Cimandiri fault line in the area, said Dwikorita Karnawati, head of the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency (BMKG).

Henri Alfiandi, the head of the National Search and Rescue Agency, said rescue workers struggled to reach villages, some isolated because of landslides and damaged roads.

“There are so many villages to cover,” Henri told reporters. “Some villages are already accessible, but roads are damaged.”

Ishak Wahyudin, 36, a resident of worst-hit Cugenang, said his house was badly damaged by the earthquake.

“The earthquake was strong. When it happened, I was still at work. But when I came home, I found that the walls of my house had collapsed,” he told BenarNews.

“But, thank God, my family are safe because they immediately ran away,” Ishak said.

Ishak said survivors needed medicines and food because many of them were injured.

Meanwhile, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo visited the quake zone and inspected the devastated areas in Cugenang district. He offered “deep condolences” and promised that the government would help rebuild damaged houses.

“But the most important thing is that the construction of houses affected by this earthquake must adopt earthquake-resistant building standards set by the ministry of public works,” Jokowi told reporters.

Dwikorita, the head of BMKG, said “people who live in landslide-prone areas may have to be relocated to safer areas”

“The BMKG is conducting a survey to identify which areas are relatively safe during an earthquake,” she said.

Cianjur Regent Herman Suherman meanwhile urged people to stay in temporary shelters prepared by the government until their homes were determined to be safe.

“Especially at night, residents in vulnerable spots... to evacuate to tents that have been prepared in open fields close to residents’ settlements or to the evacuation center in Prawatasari Field,” Herman said at a press conference.


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