Indonesian earthquake death toll rises to 268 as search for survivors continues

Indonesian earthquake death toll rises to 268 as search for survivors continues
A damaged house is pictured after an earthquake in Cianjur, West Java province, Indonesia, November 22, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 November 2022

Indonesian earthquake death toll rises to 268 as search for survivors continues

Indonesian earthquake death toll rises to 268 as search for survivors continues
  • Over 1,000 people injured and 151 still missing, latest data shows
  • Cianjur, the quake’s epicenter, is one of Indonesia most disaster-prone areas

JAKARTA: The death toll from an earthquake that hit Indonesia’s main island of Java has risen to 268, the National Disaster Management Agency said on Tuesday, as rescue workers raced to reach survivors trapped under the rubble.

At least 151 people are still missing after the 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck the mountainous West Java province on Monday afternoon. The quake had struck at a depth of 10 km, injuring over 1,000 people as it triggered landslides and damaged more than 22,000 buildings.

Efforts to reach the victims were hampered by power outages, damaged roads and landslides, with local hospitals reportedly treating hundreds of the injured on stretches outside main buildings, in parking lots and open spaces.

Officials are still working on identifying the victims, said Suharyanto, the chief of the National Disaster Management Agency, or BNPB.

“We have identified at least 122 bodies … aside from that there are still victims who are missing and we are continuing our search,” Suharyanto said during a press conference, adding that some of those who have been identified were children.

President Joko Widodo visited the epicenter of the earthquake in Cianjur on Tuesday, and said that the government would hand out compensation to victims and their families to reconstruct damaged homes, adding that housing must be built to be earthquake-resistant.

“For the victims who are still trapped, I have instructed for their evacuation and rescue to be prioritized,” Widodo told reporters.

Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of Indonesia’s meteorological, climatology and geophysical agency (BMKG), said that 145 aftershocks were recorded as of Tuesday afternoon, adding that they would reduce in frequency in the next four days.

“This earthquake, based on research and analysis by BMKG, is an earthquake with a return period of about 20 years,” Karnawati said.

“What this means is that an earthquake would likely occur again within an estimated 20 years, so during the reconstruction period it is very crucial to ensure that the buildings will be earthquake-resistant,” she added.

The Indonesian archipelago lies on the so-called “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines along the Pacific Basin that lead to a high frequency of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Cianjur district is considered one of the most disaster-prone areas in Indonesia, suffering frequent floods, landslides, droughts and also geological hazards. Monday’s quake had been felt in other parts of Java, including Bandung city and the Indonesian capital Jakarta, where people left tall office buildings and reported shaking and furniture moving.

In 2004, a 9.1 magnitude quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami that killed almost 230,000 people in more than a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.