Indonesia earthquake kills 272 people, many children

CIANJUR, Indonesia –

On the fourth day of an increasingly urgent search, Indonesian rescuers on Thursday narrowed their focus to a landslide where dozens of people are believed to be trapped after an earthquake killed at least a few people. at least 272 people, more than a third of whom are children.

Many of the more than 1,000 rescuers are using excavators, sniffer dogs and life detectors – as well as bare hands – to search the hardest-hit area of ​​the village of Cijendil in the regional district. Mount Cianjur, where a landslide caused by Monday’s earthquake has left tons of hits. mud, rocks and broken trees.

Suharyanto, director of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said rescuers are planning to use more heavy equipment to search for landslides after using maximum human strength.

“Hopefully in the next two days, after good weather, we can use heavy equipment and more victims will be found,” Mr Suharyanto said.

Rescue efforts were temporarily suspended on Wednesday as heavy monsoon rains fell.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur on Thursday and said rescuers would focus on a site where 39 people are missing.

“The search process will be our priority right now,” Widodo said. “The soil is unstable, so you need to be careful,” he warned.

He said the distribution of relief goods was difficult because the injured and evacuated were scattered and difficult to reach.

“We hope all the victims can be found soon,” said Henri Alfiandi, director of the National Search and Rescue Agency.

On Wednesday, searchers rescued a 6-year-old boy who had been trapped for two days under the rubble of a collapsed house.

Data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency shows that 100 of the 272 confirmed deaths were children.

Monday’s 5.6-magnitude earthquake injured more than 2,000 people, damaged at least 56,000 homes and forced at least 62,000 people to evacuate to evacuation centers and other shelters. The agency said 171 public facilities were destroyed, including 31 schools.

Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said authorities would verify damage to homes to allow early rebuilding to begin and bring evacuees home.

An earthquake of that magnitude is not usually expected to cause serious damage. But Monday’s quake was not strong and shook a densely populated area that lacked earthquake-resistant infrastructure. Weak aftershocks continued into Thursday morning.

More than 2.5 million people live in the Cianjur district, including about 175,000 in the main town with the same name.

President Widodo has pledged to rebuild infrastructure and provide assistance of up to 50 million rupiah ($3,180) for each resident whose home was damaged.

Indonesia is regularly subject to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location on volcanic arcs and fault lines in the Pacific basin known as the “Ring of Fire”.


Associated Press writer Edna Tarigan in Jakarta contributed to this report.

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