Hundreds of young victims of an earthquake in Indonesia’s West Java have been treated at a hospital one day after the earthquake killed at least 268 people in the country’s most populous province.
- Rescuers are focusing on Cugenang, where a landslide hit after the earthquake and swept away homes
- Thousands are living in tents and temporary shelters despite monsoon weather in Indonesia
- More than 1,000 police have been deployed to help the recovery efforts
The shallow 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck on Monday afternoon, causing significant damage to the town of Cianjur, about 75 kilometers south-east of the capital, Jakarta.
More than 150 people were still missing, disaster relief officials said on Tuesday, as rescuers searched the rubble of destroyed buildings for survivors.
Rescue efforts were complicated by electricity outages in some areas and 145 aftershocks, with officials warning more landslides could follow in the coming weeks.
Many of those injured were children who had been at school when the earthquake hit.
Sitting at the hospital next to her daughter, mother Siti Fatimah said: “At that time I told Fitri to wash her hands after eating, so she was walking to the bathroom, a few minutes later there were earthquakes, and it was intense.
“A wall collapsed on her from the neck down, I could only see her head.
“There was a full thermos that was hit by the wall as well, and the hot water hit her buttock and her leg, burning them.”
Straddling the so-called Ring of Fire, a highly seismically active zone where different plates on the earth’s crust meet, Indonesia has a history of devastating earthquakes.
Officials said many of the dead were killed when poorly constructed buildings collapsed, with the president calling for reconstruction efforts to include earthquake-proof housing.
President Joko Widodo traveled to Cianjur on Tuesday to encourage rescuers.
“My instruction is to prioritize evacuating victims who are still trapped under rubble,” he said.
Survivors had gathered overnight in a Cianjur hospital parking lot.
Some of the injured were treated in tents, while 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.
Her relative, Hesti, said many bodies were lying in “very crowded” hospital grounds.
In one area, some victims held cardboard signs asking for food and shelter, with emergency supplies seemingly yet to reach them.
Landslides leave homes buried and ‘swept away’
Disaster officials said they would focus their efforts on one of the worst-hit areas of Cugenang, an area that was struck by a landslide triggered by the earthquake.
Television news channels showed footage of people digging brown earth by hand using hoes, sticks, crowbars and other tools.
“At least six of my relatives are still unaccounted for, three adults and three children,” said Zainuddin, a resident of Cugenang.
“If it was just an earthquake, only the houses would collapse, but this is worse because of the landslide.
“In this residential area there were eight houses, all of which were buried and swept away.”
National police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said more than 1,000 police had been deployed to assist in the recovery.
‘We are starving, thirsty and cold’
Enjot was tending his cows in the hills near his home in Cianjur when the earthquake struck, leaving 11 members of his family dead.
His sister-in-law and her two children were among the hundreds injured.
He has been left visiting his hospitalized loved ones and trying to rebuild his shattered life, one of thousands of Indonesians reeling from the disaster.
“My life has suddenly changed,” said the 45-year-old, who goes by one name like many Indonesians. “I have to live with it from now on.”
After getting a call from his daughter, Enjot hopped aboard his motorbike and raced home, arriving within a few minutes to see his neighborhood flattened.
“Men, women and children cried while people who were trapped in the collapsed houses were screaming for help,” he recalled.
“I saw terrible devastation and heart-rending scenes.”
His sister-in-law and her children, who were visiting from a nearby village, were among the more fortunate.
Others heard their screams from the rubble and pulled them out.
The woman and children suffered severe head injuries and broken bones and were being treated in a hospital overwhelmed by the number of casualties.
Like many other villagers, Enjot desperately dug through debris looking for survivors, and managed to rescue several.
But blocked roads and damaged bridges meant authorities were unable to bring in the heavy machinery needed to remove larger slabs of concrete and other rubble.
Throughout the day, relatives wailed as they watched rescuers pull mud-caked bodies from the destroyed buildings, including one of Enjot’s nephews.
Not far from Enjot’s home, an aftershock triggered a landslide that crashed onto the house of one of his relatives and buried seven people inside.
Four were rescued, but two nephews and a cousin were killed, he said.
In a neighboring village, his sister, a cousin and six other relatives were killed when their homes collapsed.
Faced with such a sudden loss of life and left without a place to live, Enjot is with thousands living in tents or other temporary shelters set up by volunteers, barely enough to protect them from monsoon downpours.
“The situation is worse than it appears on television,” he said.
“We are starving, thirsty and cold without adequate tents and clothes, with no access to clean water.”
“All that’s left is the clothes I’ve been wearing since yesterday.”