Rescuers are digging through the rubble on Tuesday to find survivors of a powerful earthquake that toppled houses and buildings in a heavily populated area of Indonesia’s West Java province, killing dozens of people.
Monday’s quake killed 62 people, according to the country’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), although earlier West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said more than 160 had died. The reason for the discrepancy is still unclear.
The 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck the Cianjur region in West Java around 1:21 p.m. local time on Monday at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), causing buildings to collapse during school classes. they were on their way
Photos showed buildings reduced to rubble, with bricks and scraps of broken metal strewn across the streets. More than 700 people were injured and thousands more displaced, according to the BNPB.
“Most of those who died were children,” Kamil told reporters on Monday, adding that the death toll was likely to rise further. “There were so many incidents in various Islamic schools.”
The powerful tremors forced children to flee their classrooms, according to the aid group Save the Children, which said more than 50 schools had been affected.
Mia Saharosa, a teacher at one of the affected schools, said the earthquake “was a shock to all of us,” according to the group.
“We all gathered in the field, the kids were terrified and crying, worried about their families back home,” Saharosa said. “Let’s hug each other, get stronger and keep praying.”
Herman Suherman, a government official in Cianjur, told media that some residents were trapped in the rubble of the collapsed buildings. News channel Metro TV showed what appeared to be hundreds of victims being treated in a hospital parking lot.
According to Reuters, television footage showed residents huddled outside buildings almost completely reduced to rubble.
One resident, named only as Muchlis, said he felt “a big shake” and that the walls and ceiling of his office were damaged.
“I was very surprised. I was worried that there would be another earthquake,” he told Metro TV.
Indonesia’s meteorological office, the BMKG, warned of the danger of landslides, especially during heavy rains, as 25 aftershocks were recorded in the first two hours after the quake.
Rescuers could not immediately reach some of those trapped, he said, adding that the situation remains chaotic.
Government authorities are constructing tents and shelters for the victims while attending to their basic needs.
Indonesia is located on the “Ring of Fire”, a band around the Pacific Ocean that triggers frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. One of the most seismically active areas on the planet, it stretches from Japan and Indonesia on one side of the Pacific to California and South America on the other.
In 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake on the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami that affected 14 countries and killed 226,000 people along the Indian Ocean coast, more than half of them in Indonesia.