Rescue workers battle aftershocks as the search for survivors continues

Aerial view of damaged houses in an affected area after Monday's earthquake in Cianjur, West Java province, Indonesia, November 22, 2022

The magnitude 5.6 earthquake damaged a large area in Cianjur, West Java

Rescuers are dealing with dozens of aftershocks in the hilly region of West Java as the search for earthquake survivors enters its third day.

West Java governor Ridwan Kamil told the BBC the region has experienced about 140 tremors since Monday’s earthquake.

At least 268 people have died so far, many of them children. About 151 people remain missing and more than 1,000 are injured.

Hundreds of rescuers have been sent to Cianjur to speed up the rescue.

But their efforts have been hampered by broken roads and persistent quakes.

Mr Kamil told the BBC’s Newsday program that the local community continues to be exposed to these aftershocks, which in some cases have put aid workers at risk.

“The subsequent earthquake [sic] still happening,” he said, but added that he hoped this would be stopped by Friday. [our mission] to focus on search and rescue…[as] many people are still missing, mostly remotely [hilly] areas [and] mountain tops.”

Mr Kamil said BBC rescue teams are still traversing the site on foot and motorcycle, with roads not always accessible, but they also had helicopters on standby to take victims found to hospital. transport.

The 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck the densely populated city shortly after lunchtime on Monday, knocking dozens of buildings into rubble.

Two photos show houses in Nyalindung village, Cianjur, West Java - before Monday's earthquake, then collapsed or damaged

Two photos show houses in Nyalindung village, Cianjur, West Java – before Monday’s earthquake, then collapsed or damaged

Many people were crushed or trapped as walls and roofs collapsed. Children are among the victims – about 80 schools in the area were affected, officials say.

“Most of the victims are children, because at 1 p.m. they were still at school,” said Henri Alfiandi of the National Search and Rescue Agency.

Aprizal Mulyadi was at school when the earthquake hit and was trapped after “the room collapsed”.

The 14-year-old said his “legs were buried under the rubble”, but he was brought to safety by his friend Zulfikar, who later died after becoming trapped himself.

According to the governor, at least 58,000 people have been evacuated and dozens of refugee camps have been set up in the area. He cited the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, which is estimated to have damaged 22,000 homes.

The earthquake triggered landslides that buried entire villages in the mountainous region of West Java.

A man reacts as rescuers search for victims in an area hit by landslides following Monday's earthquake in Cianjur, West Java province

Rescue workers are trying to find as many survivors as possible in the rubble

In the village of Cibereum, a family said their eldest son, 28, had died when the house collapsed on top of him. His relatives and younger siblings had survived because they were on a higher floor.

“We have to dig through the concrete of the second floor that crushed the victim. But we saw the body,” a military official, Sergeant Payakun, told the BBC earlier on Tuesday.

President Joko Widodo had previously visited the remote disaster area where he and aid workers were photographed.

“My instruction is to prioritize the evacuation of victims who are still trapped under the rubble,” he said, adding that he had pledged compensation to affected communities.

Mr Kamil said the government would repair damaged houses, adding that residents living in “vulnerable” areas would be told not to build future homes there.

Earthquakes are common in Indonesia, which lies in the “ring of fire” of tectonic activity in the Pacific Ocean.

The country has a history of devastating quakes and tsunamis, with more than 2,000 people killed in a 2018 earthquake on the island of Sulawesi.

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