Indonesia earthquake: many of those killed were schoolchildren, says official

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The death toll from Monday’s earthquake on Indonesia’s main island of Java has risen to 268, and many of the dead are schoolchildren, officials said, as rescuers raced against time to find survivors.

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The earthquake, centered in the Cianjur region of West Java province, occurred at a shallow depth of 6.2 miles (10 km), triggering landslides and damaging buildings, including thousands of homes and dozens of schools.

Indonesia earthquake: Lives and homes ruined in Java – in pictures

Henri Alfiandi, head of the national search and rescue agency (Basarnas), said many of the victims were children who were at school at the time of the quake.

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“They were at school, at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, they were still studying,” Alfiandi told a news conference. Some of the dead were students of the Islamic boarding school. “The challenge is that the affected area is spread…above all the roads to these villages are damaged,” he said.

Provisional data released by the authorities and cited by Save the Children said about 51 education sites were affected, including 30 primary schools, 12 junior high schools, one high school, five vocational schools and one special school.

At a local hospital, overwhelmed by the number of patients, the wounded lay on the floor on mattresses and blankets or under makeshift tents. Due to power cut on Monday night, the victims were treated under torch light in the dark.

“Everything collapsed under me and I was crushed under this child,” Kuku, a 48-year-old resident, told Reuters from the crowded hospital parking area. “Two of my children survived, I dug them up… two others I brought here, and one is still missing,” she said through tears.

In one area of ​​the hospital grounds, some of the victims carried cardboard planks for food and shelter.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who visited Cianjur on Tuesday, said he had instructed teams to “give priority to the evacuation of victims who are still trapped under the rubble”.

Efforts to reach victims have been complicated by power outages, damaged roads and more than 145 aftershocks. Many people living in affected areas slept outside on Monday night, surrounded by more debris, fearing more aftershocks.

west java map

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told the Antara state news agency that hundreds of police officers were deployed to aid rescue efforts on Tuesday.

The authorities’ attention was focused on the worst-hit areas of Kugenang, an area that was hit by landslides following the quake – one of several reported across the region. TV footage showed people digging the earth by hand using spades, sticks, crowbars and other tools.

“At least six of my relatives are still missing, including three adults and three children,” Zainuddin, a resident of Kugenang, told Reuters. “If it was just an earthquake, only houses would have collapsed, but it is worse because of landslides. There were eight homes in this residential area, all of which were buried and washed away.

According to the National Disaster Agency, 1,000 people were injured, at least 22,000 homes were damaged and more than 58,000 were displaced.

Rescue workers carry an earthquake victim to a hospital in Cianjur, Indonesia. Photograph: Adi Veda/EPA

Elkhan Rahimov, head of the delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Indonesia, said the scale of the devastation continues to emerge. Jakarta was 100 km away from the epicenter but it was felt strongly. One can imagine areas where maybe people live close to each other, have smaller houses, not so much investment in infrastructure of houses,” he said. IFRC was focused on meeting people’s immediate needs for shelter, first aid and drinking water.

The US Geological Survey’s pager system estimated that up to 242,000 people were exposed to “very strong shocks” and 978,000 people to “strong shocks”.

Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because of its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, the most seismically and volcanically active region in the world. Monday’s quake was particularly devastating because it struck land at a relatively shallow depth.

In February, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, an earthquake of similar magnitude in West Sulawesi province killed more than 100 people and injured about 6,500.

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

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report


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