Indonesian rescuers focus on landslide as quake toll rises

A man carries his injured daughter as they walk to a temporary shelter for people displaced by Monday’s earthquake in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia on Thursday. The 5.6 magnitude earthquake left hundreds dead, injured and missing as buildings collapsed and terrified residents ran for their lives on the main island of Java, Indonesia. (Tatan Syuflana, Associated Press)

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CIANJUR, Indonesia – On the fourth day of an increasingly urgent search, Indonesian rescuers focused on a landslide on Thursday where dozens of people were believed to have been trapped after an earthquake killed at least 272 people , more than a third of whom were children.

Many of the more than 1,000 rescuers were using backhoes, sniffer dogs and life detectors – as well as their bare hands – to search the worst-hit area of ​​Cijendil village in the mountainous Cianjur district, where a landslide ground triggered by Monday’s earthquake left tons of mud, rocks and broken trees.

Suharyanto, head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said rescuers planned to use more heavy equipment to search for the landslide after using maximum human power.

“Hopefully in the next two days, once the weather is good, we can use heavy equipment and more victims will be found,” Suharyanto said.

Rescue efforts were temporarily suspended on Wednesday as heavy monsoon rains fell.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur on Thursday and said rescuers would focus on a location where 39 people are missing.

“The research process will be our priority for now,” Widodo said. “The ground is unstable, so you have to be careful,” he warned.

He said relief distribution has been difficult as the injured and displaced are scattered and hard to reach.

“We hope that all the victims can be found soon,” said Henri Alfiandi, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency.

On Wednesday, researchers rescued a 6-year-old boy who had been trapped for two days under the rubble of his collapsed home.

Data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency showed that 100 of the 272 confirmed deaths were children.

Monday’s 5.6 magnitude quake injured more than 2,000 people, damaged at least 56,000 homes and displaced at least 62,000 people to evacuation centers and other shelters. The agency said 171 public facilities were destroyed, including 31 schools.

Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said authorities would check for damage to homes to allow reconstruction to begin soon and evacuees to return home.

An earthquake of this strength is not generally expected to cause serious damage. But Monday’s quake was shallow and rocked a densely populated area that lacks earthquake-resistant infrastructure. Weak aftershocks continued Thursday morning.

More than 2.5 million people live in Cianjur district, including about 175,000 in its main town, which bears the same name.

Widodo pledged to rebuild infrastructure and provide assistance of up to $3,180 to each resident whose home was damaged.

Indonesia is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location on the arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific basin known as the “Ring of Fire”.

contributor: Edna Tarigan, Associated Press


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