A powerful earthquake has struck Indonesia’s main island of Java, killing 162 people and injuring hundreds more – while rescuers search for survivors trapped under rubble amid a series of aftershocks.
The epicenter of the 5.6 magnitude earthquake was near the town of Cianjur in mountainous West Java, about 75 km (45 miles) southeast of the capital Jakarta. Over 2.5 million people live in the region.
Many of the dead were public school students who had finished classes for the day and were taking extra classes at several Islamic schools when they collapsed, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said as he announced the new death toll in the remote area announced.
It is expected that the toll will continue to increase, but no estimates were initially available. The residents of Cianjur live mainly in towns with one- and two-story buildings and in smaller houses in the surrounding countryside.
Kamil said more than 13,000 people whose homes were badly damaged were taken to evacuation centers. He said on his Instagram page that 326 others were injured.
A 5.6 magnitude earthquake on Indonesia’s largest island Java 👇 has killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds more
🔗: https://t.co/oP2xvqxyGL pic.twitter.com/CpxYJm6IUj
– Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) November 21, 2022
Adam, the spokesman for the local government in the West Java city of Cianjur, who, like many Indonesians, goes by a name, confirmed the toll to AFP.
Indonesia’s national disaster response agency BNPB still lists the toll as 62, and rescuers were looking for 25 believed to be trapped under the rubble. The spokesman said the search will continue throughout the night.
Due to miscounts, officials offered wildly fluctuating death tolls after a disaster at an Indonesian stadium last month.
“So many buildings have collapsed and smashed,” Kamil told reporters. “There are local residents who are trapped in remote locations … so we expect the number of injuries and deaths to increase over time.”
Hundreds of buildings were damaged, including an Islamic boarding school, hospital and other public facilities.
Herman Suherman, a Cianjur government official, said the city’s Sayang Hospital lost power after the earthquake, leaving doctors unable to operate on the victims.
Footage from Metro TV showed buildings in Cianjur almost completely reduced to rubble as concerned residents crowded outside.
The earthquake was felt strongly in the greater Jakarta area. High-rise buildings in the capital swayed and some were evacuated.
“The quake felt so strong. My colleagues and I decided to exit our office on the ninth floor using the emergency staircase,” said Vidi Primadhania, a staffer in South Jakarta.
Muchlis, who was in Cianjur at the time of the quake, said he felt “a huge shaking” and the walls and ceiling of his office building were damaged.
“I was very shocked. I was worried there would be another quake,” Muchlis told Metro TV, adding that people ran from their homes, some fainted from the strong tremors and vomited.
Dwikorita Karnawati, head of the weather and geophysics authority BMKG, advised people to stay outdoors during aftershocks.
In the two hours after the quake, 25 aftershocks were registered, the BMKG reported, adding that there was a risk of landslides, especially in heavy rain.
“We are calling on people to stay outside of the buildings for the time being due to possible aftershocks,” Karnawati told reporters.
Arch of Volcanoes
Earthquakes are common in the sprawling archipelagic nation, but it’s unusual for them to be felt in Jakarta.
The country of more than 270 million people is often hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location on the “Ring of Fire”, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific basin.
In February 2022, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck West Sumatra province, killing at least 25 people and injuring more than 460.
In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake in West Sulawesi province killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500.
A powerful Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004 killed nearly 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.