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

Jakarta, Indonesia

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

The magnitude 5.6 earthquake struck the Cianjur district in West Java around 1:21 pm local time on Monday at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), causing buildings to collapse while school classes was underway.

On Tuesday, the death toll rose to 103 people with the majority crushed under collapsed buildings, according to the country’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB). Earlier, the governor of West Java, Ridwan Kamil, said that 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.

Pictures showed buildings reduced to rubble, with broken bricks and pieces of metal strewn on the streets. More than 700 people were injured, and thousands more displaced, according to the BNPB.

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“The majority 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 following a magnitude 5.6 earthquake in Cianjur on November 22, 2022.

The powerful tremors forced children to flee their classrooms, according to support group Save the Children, 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 in the field, children were scared and crying, worried about their families at home,” said Saharosa. “We embrace each other, strengthen each other, and continue to pray.”

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

Herman Suherman, a government official in Cianjur, told the 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 car park.

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

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

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

Workers inspect a school that was damaged in the earthquake in Cianjur, West Java.

Indonesia’s meteorological center, the BMKG, warned of the risk of landslides, especially in the event of heavy rain, as 25 aftershocks were recorded in the first two hours after the earthquake.

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Rescuers were unable to reach some of those trapped immediately, he said, adding that the situation remained chaotic.

Government authorities are building tents and shelters for the victims while attending to their basic needs.

The Cianjur school building has collapsed following the earthquake.

Indonesia sits on the “Ring of Fire,” a band around the Pacific Ocean that initiates 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 Ocean to California and South America on the other.

In 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the island of Sumatra in northern Indonesia caused 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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