Indonesian rescue workers race to find victims trapped by deadly quake

November 22, 2022 - 10:41 AM
A view of a destroyed kindergarten which was affected by the earthquake in Cugenang, Cianjur, West Java province, Indonesia, November 22, 2022. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

CIANJUR, Indonesia – Indonesian rescue workers were racing on Tuesday to reach people still trapped in rubble after an earthquake devastated a West Java town a day earlier, killing at least 162 people and injuring hundreds, as officials warned the death toll may rise.

The epicenter of the shallow 5.6-magnitude quake was close to the town of Cianjur in a mountainous area of Indonesia’s most populous province. The tremor on Monday afternoon prompted panicked residents to flee onto the streets as buildings collapsed.

Overnight a hospital parking lot in Cianjur was inundated with victims, some treated in makeshift tents, others hooked up to intravenous drips on the pavement, while medical workers stitched up patients under the light of torches.

“Everything collapsed beneath me and I was crushed beneath this child,” Cucu, a 48-year-old resident, told Reuters, from the crowded hospital parking area.

“Two of my kids survived, I dug them up… Two others I brought here, and one is still missing,” she said through tears.

On Tuesday morning, hundreds of police officers had been deployed to assist in rescue efforts, Dedi Prasetyo, national police spokesperson told the Antara state news agency.

“Today’s main task order for personnel is to focus on evacuating victims,” he said.​​

At least 162 people were killed in Monday’s quake, many of them children, with more than 300 injured, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said, warning some residents remained trapped in isolated places.

Authorities were operating “under the assumption that the number of injured and death will rise with time”, he said.

The national disaster agency (BNPB) said it had confirmed the deaths of 62 people, but had not verified 100 additional victims.

On Tuesday, officials were working to reach the area of
Cugenang, which had been blocked off by a landslide.

Rescue efforts were complicated by electricity outages in some areas, and more than 80 aftershocks.

The earthquake, which was felt strongly in the capital Jakarta, some 75 km (45 miles) away, damaged at least 2,200 homes and displaced more than 5,000 people, the BNPB said.

Straddling the so-called “Ring of Fire”, a highly seismically active zone where different plates on the earth’s crust meet, Indonesia has a history of devastating earthquakes.

In 2004, a 9.1 magnitude quake off Sumatra island in northern Indonesia triggered a tsunami that struck 14 countries, killing 226,000 people along the Indian Ocean coastline, more
than half of them in Indonesia.—Reporting by Johan Purnomo and Tommy Adriansyah in Cianjur; and Gayatri Suroyo in Jakarta; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by
Ed Davies and Lincoln Feast