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Indonesian rescue workers race to find victims of deadly quake

People are still trapped in rubble after an earthquake devastated a West Java town on Monday, killing at least 252 people and injuring hundreds.

Indonesian rescue workers race to find victims of deadly quake

People salvage items from their damaged house following a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that killed at least 162 people, with hundreds injured and others missing in Cianjur on Nov 22, 2022. (Photo: AFP/ADEK BERRY)

CIANJUR, Indonesia: Indonesian rescue workers were racing on Tuesday (Nov 22) to reach people still trapped in rubble a day after an earthquake devastated a West Java town, killing at least 252 people and injuring hundreds, as officials warned that the death toll may rise.

The epicentre of the shallow 5.6-magnitude quake hit on land close to the town of Cianjur in a mountainous area of Indonesia's most populous province. The tremor on Monday afternoon prompted panicked residents to flee onto the streets as buildings collapsed.

Many of the fatalities were caused by falling buildings, the head of Indonesia's meteorology and geophysics agency, Dwikorita Karnawati, said in a statement.

A man saves his pets following a 5.6 magnitude earthquake on on Nov 22, 2022 that killed over 250 people, with hundreds injured and others missing in Cianjur. (Photo: AFP/ADEK BERRY)

Overnight, a hospital parking lot in Cianjur 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, a 48-year-old 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, Dedi Prasetyo, a national police spokesperson told the Antara state news agency.

"Today's main task order for personnel is to focus on evacuating victims," he said.

At least 252 people were killed in Monday's quake, many of them children, with more than 300 injured, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said, warning that some residents remained trapped in isolated places.

Authorities were operating "under the assumption that the number of injured and death will rise with time", he said.

"The challenge is the affected area is spread out ... On top of that, the roads in these villages are damaged," Henri Alfiandi, head of National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), told a news conference.

"Most of the casualties are children, because at 1pm, they were still at school," he said of the time the quake hit.

Basarnas earlier confirmed that 162 people had died and more than 13,000 people had been evacuated.

The national disaster agency (BNPB) said it had earlier confirmed the deaths of 62 people, but had not verified 100 additional victims.

In the latest update, the local government said in an Instagram post on Tuesday that the death toll had risen to 252.

The post added 31 people are still missing and 377 were injured, while the number of people displaced has reached 7,060. 

Cianjur's police chief told the Metro TV news channel that 20 people had been evacuated from Cugenang village so far, but many had died, with residents still reporting missing family members.

The area was hit by a landslide triggered by the quake that had blocked access to the area on Monday.

"At least six of my relatives are still unaccounted for, three adults and three children," said Zainuddin, a local resident from Cugenang.

"If it was just an earthquake only, the houses would collapse, but this is worse because of the landslide. In this residential area, there were eight houses, all of the which were buried and swept away."

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

People stay at a temporary shelter following a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that killed at least 162 people, with hundreds injured and others missing in Cianjur on Nov 22, 2022. (Photo: AFP/ADEK BERRY)

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

Straddling the so-called "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.

Source: Reuters/ic/lk/kg
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