Rescue workers search for buried survivors after the earthquake in Indonesia killed 162 people

Rescuers searched for survivors buried under rubble on Tuesday after a powerful earthquake on Indonesia’s main island of Java killed 162 people, injured hundreds and trapped more feared people in collapsed buildings.

The epicenter of Monday’s shallow 5.6-magnitude tremor was near the town of Cianjur in Indonesia’s most populous province of West Java, where most of the victims were killed as buildings collapsed and landslides were triggered.

Some of the dead were students at an Islamic boarding school, while others were killed in their own homes as roofs and walls collapsed on them.

“The room collapsed and my legs were buried under the rubble. It all happened so quickly,” 14-year-old student Aprizal Mulyadi told AFP.

He said he was taken to safety by his friend Zulfikar, who later died after being trapped under rubble.

“I was devastated to see him like that, but I couldn’t help him because my legs and back were injured,” he said.

The search operation was made more difficult due to poor road connections and lack of electricity in parts of the mostly rural, mountainous region.

On Tuesday, dozens of rescuers in Cugenang village tried to use heavy machinery to clear the road to Cianjur, which was cut off by a landslide.

As the body bags emerged from the crumbling buildings, the focus turned to the missing and any survivors beneath the rubble.

Indonesia’s national disaster management agency BNPB said at nightfall Monday at least 25 people were still buried under the rubble in Cianjur.

The survivors camped outside in near total darkness, surrounded by fallen debris, broken glass and large chunks of concrete.

The Disaster Management Agency said more than 2,000 homes were damaged and West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said more than 13,000 people were taken to evacuation centers.

After the earthquake, which was felt as far away as the capital Jakarta, doctors treated patients outdoors in makeshift treatment wards.

Mourning loved ones waited for authorities to remove the bodies from the morgues to bury their loved ones according to their Islamic beliefs, while others searched for their missing relatives in the chaos.

At an emergency shelter in Ciherang village near Cianjur, the evacuees sat on tarps on the cold morning ground.

Babies and children slept while their exhausted mothers kept vigil.

Nunung, a 37-year-old woman who goes by a name like many Indonesians, had pulled herself and her 12-year-old son from the rubble of her collapsed home.

“I was screaming for help because nobody came to help us, I had to dig to free myself,” she told AFP from the shelter, her face covered in dry blood. “Nothing is left, there is nothing I can save except the clothes on our backs.”

The devastation caused by the quake was compounded by a wave of 62 smaller aftershocks – ranging in magnitude from 1.8 to 4 – that repeatedly shook Cianjur, a town of about 175,000 people.

Leaders from France and Canada offered their condolences Monday night, but Indonesian President Joko Widodo has yet to respond.

Indonesia is subject to frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide.

A magnitude 6.2 quake that struck the island of Sulawesi in January 2021 killed more than 100 people and left thousands homeless.

© 2022 AFP

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