Earthquake in Indonesia’s Java kills 162, injures hundreds; India condoles loss of lives

Cianjur (Indonesia): At least 162 people were killed and hundreds injured in a powerful earthquake on Indonesia’s main island on Monday. The toll is expected to rise further, but no estimates were immediately available because of the area’s far-flung, rural population, said an AP report, adding that roughly 175,000 people live in the town of Cianjur, part of a mountainous district of the same name with more than 2.5 million people.

According to the reports, terrified residents fled into the street, some covered in blood and debris. Many of the dead were public school students who had finished their classes for the day and were taking extra lessons at several Islamic schools when they collapsed, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said as he announced the new death toll in the remote, rural area.

Meanwhile, India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday condoled the loss of lives in a powerful earthquake that struck Java in Indonesia. Expressing shock over the incident, Jaishankar tweeted, “Saddened to hear news about the loss of life and property in Java, Indonesia from the earthquake.” 

The MEA further said, “My thoughts are with the bereaved families. Wish the injured a speedy recovery. India stands in solidarity with Indonesia at this difficult time.” 

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency reportedly recorded at least 25  aftershocks. “The quake felt so strong. My colleagues and I decided to get out of our office on the ninth floor using the emergency stairs,” said Vidi Primadhania, a worker in the capital, where many residents ran into the streets and others hid under desks, is quoted by AP as saying.

Indonesia, a country of more than 270 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

Known for their piety, the people of Cianjur live mostly in towns of one- and two-story buildings and in smaller homes in the surrounding countryside. Kamil told AP that more than 13,000 people whose homes were heavily damaged were taken to evacuation centres.

Emergency workers treated the injured on stretchers and blankets outside hospitals, on terraces, and in parking lots in the Cianjur region, about three hour’s drive from the capital, Java. The injured, including children, were given oxygen masks and IV lines. Some were resuscitated.

“I fainted. It was very strong,” said Hasan, a construction worker who, like many Indonesians, uses one name, adding “I saw my friends running to escape from the building. But it was too late to get out and I was hit by the wall.”

Residents, some crying and holding their children, fled damaged homes after the magnitude 5.6 quake shook the region in West Java province in the late afternoon, at a depth of 10 kilometers. It also caused panic in the greater Jakarta area, where high-rises swayed and some people evacuated.

In many homes in Cianjur, chunks of concrete and roof tiles fell inside bedrooms. One shopkeeper Dewi Risma was working with customers when the quake hit, and she ran for the exit. “The vehicles on the road stopped because the quake was very strong,” she said, adding “I felt it shook three times, but the first one was the strongest one for around 10 seconds. The roof of the shop next to the store I work in had collapsed, and people said two had been hit.”

Among the dozens of buildings that were damaged was a hospital, the agency said. Power outages were reported.

In February this year, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake reportedly killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500 in West Sulawesi province. A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed nearly 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.

(With AP Inputs)

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