Children at school among 162 dead in Indonesia earthquake

  • The death toll from the 5.6 magnitude earthquake is expected to rise
  • Dozens remain trapped in the rubble – officials
  • president

CIANJUR, Indonesia, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Children killed when their schools collapsed made up many of the 162 dead in an earthquake that devastated a town on Indonesia’s main island of Java, an official said on Tuesday as rescuers raced , to reach people trapped in rubble.

Hundreds of people were injured in Monday’s quake, and officials warned the death toll was likely to rise.

The shallow 5.6 magnitude tremor shook mountains in Indonesia’s most populous province of West Java, causing extensive damage in the town of Cianjur and engulfing at least one village in a landslide.

Landslides and rough terrain hampered rescue efforts, said Henri Alfiandi, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas).

“The challenge is that the affected area is vast… In addition, the roads in these villages are damaged,” Alfiandi told a news conference, adding that more than 13,000 people had been evacuated.

“Most of the victims are children because they were still at school at 1 p.m.,” he said, referring to the time of the quake.

Many of the deaths were due to people being trapped under collapsed buildings, officials said.

President Joko Widodo flew to Cianjur on Tuesday to encourage rescuers.

“My orders are to give priority to evacuating victims who are still trapped under rubble,” said the president, known as Jokowi.

He expressed his condolences to the victims and promised emergency government assistance. Reconstruction should include earthquake-prone housing to protect against future disasters, he said.

Survivors gathered overnight in a hospital parking lot in Cianjur. Some of the injured were treated in tents, others were hooked up to IVs on the sidewalk while medical staff stitched patients under torchlight.

“Everything collapsed under me and I was crushed under this kid,” Cucu, a 48-year-old resident, told Reuters.

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

Footage from Kompas TV showed people holding cardboard signs asking for food and shelter, with emergency supplies apparently yet to reach them.

Hundreds of police officers have been deployed to help with the rescue effort, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told state news agency Antara.

“The main task for staff today is to focus on evacuating casualties,” he said.


West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said at least 162 people were killed, many of them children, while the national disaster agency (BNPB) death toll stood at 103 and 31 were missing.

Authorities “acted on the assumption that the number of injured and dead will increase,” the governor said, as at least one village was buried by landslides triggered by the quake.

The Cianjur police chief told Metro TV that 20 people had been evacuated from Cugenang district, most of whom died, with local residents 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 missing, three adults and three children,” said Zainuddin, a Cugenang resident.

“If it was just an earthquake, only the houses would collapse, but that’s worse because of the landslide. There were eight houses in this residential area, all of which were buried and swept away.”

Rescue efforts were complicated by power outages in some areas and more than 100 aftershocks.

Spanning what is known as the “Ring of Fire,” a highly seismically active zone where different plates of the earth’s crust meet, Indonesia has a history of devastating earthquakes.

In 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the island of Sumatra in northern Indonesia triggered a tsunami that struck 14 countries and killed 226,000 people.

Reporting by Tommy Adriansyah and Ajeng Dinar Ulfina in Cianjur; and Gayatri Suroyo, Ananda Teresia, Fransiska Nagoy and Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta; writing by Kate Lamb; Adaptation by Ed Davies and Stephen Coates

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