CIANJUR, INDONESIA (AP) – The death toll from the earthquake that shook the Indonesian island of Java leapt to 268 yesterday as more bodies were found beneath collapsed buildings, and 151 people are still missing, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said.
Agency head Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name, told reporters that another 1,083 people were injured in the 5.6 magnitude earthquake that hit on Monday afternoon near the city of Cianjur.
The temblor sent terrified residents fleeing into the streets, some covered in blood and debris, and caused buildings around the rural area to collapse.
One woman told The Associated Press that when the earthquake hit, her home in Cianjur started “shaking like it was dancing”.
“I was crying and immediately grabbed my husband and children,” said the woman, who gave her name only as Partinem. The house collapsed shortly after she escaped with her family.
“If I didn’t pull them out we might have also been victims,” she said, gazing over the pile of concrete and timber rubble.
In addition to those killed, authorities reported over 300 people were seriously hurt and at least 600 more suffered minor injuries.
In the village of Cijedil, northwest of Cianjur, the quake triggered a landslide that blocked streets and buried several houses, said National Search and Rescue Agency Chief Henri Alfiandi.
“We are maximising operations at several points where it is suspected that there are still casualties. Our team is also trying to reach remote areas,” he said. “For us, all victims are a priority, our goal is to find them and save lives by getting them evacuated as soon as possible and get medical help.”
With hospitals already overwhelmed, patients lay on stretchers and cots in tents set up outside, with intravenous drips in their arms as they awaited further treatment.
Many of the dead were public school students who had finished their classes for the day and were taking extra lessons at Islamic schools when the buildings collapsed, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said.
Initial rescue attempts were hampered by damaged roads and bridges and power blackouts, and a lack of heavy equipment to help move the heavy concrete rubble. By yesterday, power supplies and phone communications had begun to improve.
Operations were focussed on about a dozen locations in Cianjur, where people are still believed trapped, said public works and housing spokesperson Endra Atmawidjaja.
“We are racing against time to rescue people,” Atmawidjaja said, adding that seven excavators and 10 large trucks had been deployed from neighbouring Bandung and Bogor cities to continue clearing trees and soil that blocked roads.
Cargo trucks carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from Jakarta were arriving early yesterday in temporary shelters. Still, thousands spent the night in the open fearing aftershocks.
“Buildings were completely flattened,” said Dwi Sarmadi, who works for an Islamic educational foundation in a neighbouring district.
President Joko Widodo yesterday visited Cianjur to reassure people of the government’s response in reaching those in need.
“On behalf of myself and on behalf of the government, I would like to express my deep condolences to the victims and their families in this Cianjur earthquake,” he said after visiting survivors in shelters on a football field.
He pledged to rebuild infrastructure, including the main bridge connecting Cianjur to other cities, and to provide the government assistance up to each resident whose house was damaged.