Sunday, December 4, 2022

Children at school among 162 dead in Indonesia quake

Children at school among 162 dead in Indonesia quake

CIANJUR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Children killed when their schools collapsed accounted for many of the 162 dead in an earthquake that devastated a town on Indonesia's main island of Java, an official said on Tuesday, as rescuers raced to reach people trapped in rubble.

Hundreds of people were injured in the Monday quake and officials warned the death toll was likely to rise.

The shallow 5.6-magnitude quake struck in mountains in Indonesia's most populous province of West Java, causing significant damage to the town of Cianjur and burying at least one village under a landslide.

Landslides and rough terrain were hampering rescue efforts, said Henri Alfiandi, head of National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas).

"The challenge is the affected area is spread out ... On top of that, the roads in these villages are damaged," Alfiandi told a news conference, adding that more than 13,000 people had been evacuated.

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

Many of the fatalities resulted from people trapped under collapsed buildings, officials said.

President Joko Widodo flew in to Cianjur on Tuesday to encourage rescuers.

"My instruction is to prioritise evacuating victims that are still trapped under rubble," said the president, who is known as Jokowi.

He offered his condolences to the victims and pledged emergency government support. Reconstruction should include earthquake-prone housing to protect against future disasters, he said.

Survivors gathered overnight in a Cianjur hospital parking lot. Some of the injured were treated in tents, others were hooked up to intravenous drips on the pavement as medical workers stitched up patients under torch light.

"Everything collapsed beneath me and I was crushed beneath this child," Cucu, a 48-year-old resident, told Reuters.

"Two of my kids survived, I dug them up ... Two others I brought here, and one is still missing," she said through tears.