Death toll from devastating earthquake in Indonesia rises to 252

Eva Deschamps / November 22, 2022

The death toll from the 5.6-magnitude earthquake that struck the Indonesian island of Java has been raised to 252, a spokesman for the local government of Cianjur told AFP on Tuesday. The local government of Cianjur, the city hardest hit by Monday's quake, announced on its Instagram account a new death toll of 252, 31 missing and more than 300 injured. "This is the official data," confirmed Adam, a spokesman for the local administration on the phone. Rescue workers were working Tuesday to find survivors among the rubble.


The epicenter of the 5.6 magnitude earthquake was located near the town of Cianjur, in West Java province, the most populous province in this Southeast Asian archipelago. The victims died in the collapse of buildings, but also in landslides triggered by the tremors that hit this very hilly region. Indonesian President Joko Widodo promised compensation during a visit to the site, asking the rescue teams "to mobilize their staff" to allow above all the evacuation of victims.


Today we are focusing on extracting victims buried by the landslides," Rudy Saladin, a local military official, told AFP. "It is possible that there are more victims," he said. Drone footage shows the extent of the earthquake damage: bulldozers are trying to clear a road after an entire hillside of brown earth collapsed.


Rescuers are trying to pick their way through debris and fallen trees to reach areas where residents are believed to be trapped, Dimas Reviansyah, a 34-year-old rescuer working alongside dozens of others, tells AFP. "I haven't slept at all since yesterday (Monday) but I have to keep going because there are victims who have not been found," he says.


Among the victims were students at an Islamic boarding school and residents who were killed in their homes when the roof or walls fell in. "The room collapsed and my legs were buried under the rubble. It all happened so fast," 14-year-old Aprizal Mulyadi told AFP, who was pulled to safety by one of his friends who later died.


The search is made more difficult by blocked roads and power outages in this rural area where houses are made of both wood and concrete. More than 2,000 homes were damaged. Some 13,000 people have been moved to evacuation centers, said Ridwan Kamil, governor of West Java. The official announced Monday evening that 162 people had died.


In the towns, doctors were treating patients outdoors as well as in improvised care units in tents after the earthquake, which shook buildings in the capital, Jakarta. In a photo taken by an AFP photographer, a father is seen carrying the body of his son wrapped in a white shroud in his arms through his village near Cianjur.


Many other residents continued to search for their missing loved ones amidst the chaos Rahmi Leonita's father was on his motorcycle when the earthquake shook the town of Cianjur and she has been looking for him since the day before. "His phone is switched off. I am in shock. I am very worried but I still have hope" to find him, said the 38-year-old Indonesian with tears streaming down her cheeks.


At a shelter in Ciherang village near the town of Cianjur, victims, including babies and young children, sit on corrugated iron sheets. Nunung, a 37-year-old mother who like many Indonesians has only one name, rescued her son from the disaster by pulling him out of the debris of their collapsed house. "I had to free us by digging. There is nothing left, I could not save anything," she told AFP the face covered with dried blood.


The damage from the earthquake, which struck after 1:20 p.m. local time on Monday, was compounded by more than 60 aftershocks ranging from magnitude 1.8 to 4 in the city of Cianjur, home to some 175,000 people. According to the national geology agency, the nature of the terrain of the region, friable volcanic deposits of the quaternary, "may have accentuated the shocks" seismic created by an active fault.


Located on the Pacific "belt of fire" where tectonic plates meet, Indonesia is regularly faced with earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. In January 2021 an earthquake of magnitude 6.2 killed more than 100 people on the island of Sulawesi.

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