Search for quake victims continues

Indonesian Army officers stand as they evacuate people from the site of a landslide caused by the earthquake in Cugenang, Cianjur, West Java province, Indonesia, November 22, 2022. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

PRESIDENT Joko “Jokowi” Widodo urged rescue workers to prioritise saving victims trapped in rubble after an earthquake devastated a West Java town, killing up to 252 people and injuring hundreds.

The epicentre of the shallow 5.6-magnitude quake hit on land in a mountainous area of Indonesia’s most populous province, causing significant damage to the nearby town of Cianjur and burying at least one village under a landslide.

Many of the fatalities resulted from people trapped under collapsed buildings, officials said.

“My instruction is to prioritise evacuating victims that are still trapped under rubble,” the president said during a visit to the area yesterday.

Jokowi offered his condolences to the victims and pledged emergency government support.

Reconstruction should include earthquake-prone housing to protect against future natural disasters, he said.

In the aftermath of Monday’s quake victims fled to a hospital parking lot in Cianjur overnight, 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 scene.

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

Hundreds of police officers were deployed to assist rescue efforts, Dedi Prasetyo, national police spokesperson told the Antara state news agency.

The death toll jumped dramatically yesterday from 162 to 252, a spokesman for the Cianjur administration said.

Authorities were operating “under the assumption that the number of injured and deaths will rise with time”, said West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, with at least one village buried by landslides triggered by the quake.

“The challenge is the affected area is spread out and the roads are damaged,” Henri Alfiandi, head of National Search and Rescue Agency, said, adding that 13,000 people had been evacuated.

“Most of the casualties are children, because at 1pm they were still at school,” he said.

Cianjur police chief told Metro TV news channel that 20 people had been evacuated from the district of Cugenang, most of whom had died, with residents still reporting missing family members.

The area was hit by a landslide triggered by the quake that had blocked access to the area.

“At least six of my relatives are still unaccounted for, three adults and three children,” said Zainuddin, a local resident from Cugenang. — Reuters

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