Indonesian earthquake: death toll rises to 268, with 151 missing

Rescuers search destroyed buildings for survivors after 5.6-magnitude quake in West Java

An earthquake that struck Indonesia’s West Java killed at least 268 people, many of them children, with 151 still missing, disaster relief officials said on Tuesday, as rescuers searched the rubble of destroyed buildings for survivors.

The shallow 5.6-magnitude quake struck in Indonesia’s most populous province on Monday afternoon, causing significant damage to the town of Cianjur, about 75km (45 miles) southeast of the capital, Jakarta, and burying at least one village under a landslide.

Disaster agency chief Suharyanto told reporters that more than 1,000 people had been injured, 58,000 displaced and 22,000 houses damaged.

Landslides and rough terrain hampered rescue efforts on Tuesday, said Henri Alfiandi, head of National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas). “The challenge is the affected area is spread out ... on top of that, the roads in these villages are damaged,” Mr Alfiandi told reporters.


Many of the victims were children who had been at school at the time the quake hit, he said.

While strong earthquakes of magnitude six or seven are relatively common in Indonesia, often offshore where fault lines run, Monday’s quake of a lower magnitude had such deadly consequences because it struck on land at a relatively shallow depth.

Officials said many of the dead were killed when poorly constructed buildings collapsed, with the president calling for reconstruction efforts to include earthquake-proof housing.

President Joko Widodo travelled to Cianjur on Tuesday to encourage rescuers. “My instruction is to prioritise evacuating victims that are still trapped under rubble,” he said.

Survivors had gathered overnight in a Cianjur hospital parking lot. Some of the injured were treated in tents, others were hooked up to intravenous drips on the pavement as medical workers stitched up patients under torch light.

Overnight a hospital parking lot in the town 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 (48), a 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, a national police spokesperson told the Antara state news agency.

Rescue efforts were complicated by electricity outages in some areas, and 117 aftershocks.

The earthquake, which struck at a depth of just 10km (6.2 miles) and was felt strongly in the capital Jakarta about 75km away, damaged at least 2,200 homes and displaced more than 5,000 people, the BNPB said.

Straddling the “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. – Reuters