Cianjur, Indonesia — The death toll from the earthquake that shook the Indonesian island of Java on Monday leapt to 268 on Tuesday as more bodies were found beneath collapsed buildings, and 151 people are still missing, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said. The chief of the agency, Suharyanto, who, like many Indonesians, goes by a single name, told reporters that 1,083 people were hurt after a quake of magnitude 5.6 struck near the city of Cianjur on Monday afternoon.
Cianjur, in the country’s most densely populated province of West Java, was near the epicenter of the temblor on Monday afternoon, which sent terrified residents fleeing into the streets, some covered in blood and debris.
Blocked roads and damaged bridges prevented rescuers from bringing excavators and other heavy equipment to the rural area to help dig out survivors until Tuesday.
On November 22, 2022, rescue workers carry the body of a victim in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, following a magnitude 5.6 earthquake that killed over 250 people. ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty
When the earthquake struck her home in Cianjur, one woman told the Associated Press that the structure began “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.
“Had I not pulled them out, we too may have been victims,” she added as she surveyed the mound of concrete and wood debris.
Rescue workers search for victims beneath the rubble of fallen buildings in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, on November 22, 2022, after a magnitude 5.6 earthquake claimed the lives of more than 250 people. TIMUR MATAHARI/AFP/Getty Pictures
In addition to those killed, authorities reported more than 300 people were seriously hurt and at least 600 more suffered minor injuries. It is unclear how many people are still missing.
In the village of Cijedil, northwest of Cianjur, the earthquake triggered a landslide that buried several houses and 25 people, according to the director of the National Search and Rescue Agency, Henri Alfiandi.
“We are maximizing operations at several points where it is suspected that there are still casualties. Our team is also attempting to access remote regions “he said. “For us, all victims are a top priority; our mission is to locate them and save their lives by evacuating and treating them as soon as possible.”
People displaced by an earthquake take refuge under a makeshift shelter in Cianjur, Indonesia, November 22, 2022. Eddy Purwanto/NurPhoto/Getty Photographers
With hospitals already at capacity, patients awaited further treatment on stretchers and cots in tents set up outside, with intravenous drips in their arms.
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 Gov. Ridwan Kamil said.
Operations were focused on about a dozen locations in Cianjur, where people were still believed trapped, said Endra Atmawidjaja, the public works and housing spokesperson.
“We are racing against time to rescue people,” Atmawidjaja said, adding that seven excavators and 10 large trucks had been deployed from neighboring 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 Tuesday in temporary shelters. Still, thousands spent the night in the open fearing aftershocks.
Search and rescue workers evacuate a victim of a landslide caused by an earthquake in Cugenang Village, Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, November 22, 2022. Eko Siswono Toyudho/Anadolu Agency/Getty
“Buildings were completely flattened,” said Dwi Sarmadi, who works for an Islamic educational foundation in a neighboring district.
President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur Tuesday 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 soccer field.
He pledged to rebuild infrastructure, including the main bridge connecting Cianjur to other cities, and to provide government assistance up to 50 million rupiah ($3,180) to each resident whose house was damaged.
Roughly 175,000 people live in Cianjur, part of a mountainous district of the same name with more than 2.5 million people. Known for their piety, the people of Cianjur live mostly in towns of one- and two-story buildings and in smaller homes in the surrounding countryside.
Kamil said more than 13,000 people whose homes were heavily damaged were taken to evacuation centers. Outside the Cianjur Regional Hospital, hundreds waited for treatment.
Earthquake victims wait for treatment outside the Cimacan Regional General Hospital in Cianjur, Indonesia, November 22, 2022. Eddy Purwanto/NurPhoto/Getty
“I was working inside my office building. The building was not damaged, but as the quake shook very strongly, many things fell. My leg was hit by heavy stuff,” Sarmadi said.
He was waiting near a tent outside the hospital after some overwhelmed clinics were unable to see him. Many people were coming in worse shape. “I really hope they can handle me soon,” he said.
Hasan, a construction worker who, like many Indonesians uses one name, was also one of the survivors who was taken to the hospital.
“I fainted. It was very strong,” Hasan recalled. “I saw my friends running to escape from the building. But it was too late to get out and I was hit by the wall.”
The quake struck at a depth of 6.2 miles. It also caused panic in the greater Jakarta area, about a three hour-drive away, where high-rises swayed and some people evacuated.
The country of more than 270 million people is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin known as the “Ring of Fire.”
In February, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500 in West Sulawesi province.
A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed nearly 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia