CIANJUR, Indonesia — Rescuers on Tuesday struggled to find more bodies from the rubble of homes and buildings toppled by an earthquake that killed at least 162 people and injured hundreds on Indonesia’s main island of Java.
More heavy equipment reached the hardest-hit city of Cianjur in the country’s most densely populated province of West Java, where the magnitude 5. 6 land-based quake struck Monday afternoon. Several people were left in bloody and disfigured streets as terrified residents ran for their lives.
Damaged roads and bridges, power blackouts and lack of heavy equipment previously hampered Indonesia’s rescuers after the quake set off a landslide that blocked streets and buried several houses and motorists.
Telephone communications and power supplies have started to improve in earthquake-affected areas since Tuesday.
Many victims were students from public schools who were finishing their day at school and taking lessons in Islamic schools after the collapse of buildings, West Java Governor said. Ridwan Kamil said as he announced the latest death toll in the remote, rural area.
Hospitals were overwhelmed by injured people, and the toll was expected to rise. Due to the remoteness of the region’s rural population, no estimates could be made immediately. However, many buildings collapsed and people and emergency personnel braced themselves for bad news.
Operations were focused on about a dozen locations in Cianjur, where people are still believed trapped, said Endra Atmawidjaja, the Public Works and Housing spokesperson.
“We are racing with time to rescue people,” Atmawidjaja said, adding that seven excavators and 10 large trucks have been deployed from neighboring Bandung and Bogor cities to continue clearing trees and soils that blocked roads linking Cianjur and Cipanas towns.
Cargo trucks carrying food, tents, blankets and other supplies from the capital, Jakarta, were arriving early Tuesday for distribution in temporary shelters. Despite the danger of aftershocks, many people stayed out in the open for the entire night.
“Buildings were completely flattened,” said Dwi Sarmadi, who works for an Islamic educational foundation in a neighboring district.
Roughly 175,000 people live in the town of Cianjur, part of a mountainous district of the same name with more than 2. 5 million people. The people of Cianjur are known for their devotion to God and live in small towns with one and two-story houses.
Kamil said that more than 13,000 people whose homes were heavily damaged were taken to evacuation centers.
Emergency workers treated the injured on stretchers and blankets outside hospitals, on terraces and in parking lots. The injured, including children, were given oxygen masks and IV lines. Others were revived.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Cianjur regional hospital building, waiting for treatment
“I was working inside my office building. Although the building wasn’t damaged, many items fell as the earthquake shook strongly. Sarmadi stated that heavy objects had impacted my leg.
Sarmadi was waiting near a tent outside the hospital after some overwhelmed clinics were unable to see him. There were many people coming in much worse condition.
“I really hope they can handle me soon,” he said.
Hasan, a construction worker who, like many Indonesians, uses one name, is also one of the survivors that is being taken to the hospital.
“I fainted. Hasan said that it was extremely strong. “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 magnitude 5. 6 quake was at a depth of 10 kilometers (6. 2 miles) below the Earth’s surface, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It also caused panic in the greater Jakarta area, about a three hour-drive away, where high-rises swayed and some people evacuated.
Buckets of concrete or roof tiles were found in many Cianjur homes.
Shopkeeper Dewi Risma was working with customers when the quake hit, and she ran for the exit.
” The quake caused all traffic to stop because it was so strong,” she stated. “I felt it shook three times, but the first one was the strongest one for around 10 seconds. The roof of the shop next to the store I work in had collapsed, and people said two had been hit.”
Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency recorded at least 25 aftershocks.
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 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.
Tarigan reported from Jakarta. Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.
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