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Indonesia earthquake rescue efforts hindered

25 November 2022


A settlement in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, after the earthquake on Monday that destroyed hundreds of houses and cut off road access to the worst-affected areas

A settlement in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, after the earthquake on Monday that destroyed hundreds of houses and cut off road access to the worst-a...

THE death toll in the earthquake that hit Indonesia on Monday has risen to at least 270, some of whom were children in school.

In the aftermath of the quake, which struck the town of Cianjur, in West Java, at 1 p.m., more than 1000 people were reported to be injured, more than 150 still missing, and an estimated 10,000 displaced: a figure which continues to rise.

Save the Children, which has worked in Indonesia since 1976, is among the agencies working with the Indonesian authorities to supply temporary shelters, food, water, blankets, and medical supplies.

Its response team leader, Fadli Usman, said: “Children are terrified. We need to get food, water, and shelter to them, and ensure they are not at risk of separation from parents and caregivers. We don’t know yet how many have been injured or killed, but this earthquake struck when classrooms were full of children. Many fled in tears, not knowing what was happening.

“You cannot underestimate the psychological impact such a traumatic event can have on children, and we need to do everything we can to protect them.”

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 5.6, triggered landslides thought to have buried villages near by. As one of the most earthquake-prone countries on earth, Indonesia has regularly recorded stronger offshore earthquakes, but Monday’s tremor is acknowledged to have been particularly deadly, striking in a densely populated area and to a shallow depth of six miles; 140 aftershocks have been reported.

Rescue work is being hampered by wrecked roads and continuing tremors, with scores of buildings reduced to rubble, and many people crushed or trapped when walls and roofs caved in. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency reports 22,000 homes damaged.

The Secretary General of the Indonesian Red Cross, Sudirman Said, said: “We are devastated to hear about the lives that have been lost by the earthquake. Our relief and emergency teams have been deployed to help with evacuations, providing first aid, distributing clean water, establishing emergency kitchens and emergency relief, focusing on most affected areas.

“We are doing all we can to ensure no more lives are lost. . . We would also urge people to stay calm and to contact authorities for help.”

The team manager of Mercy Corps Indonesia, Piva Bell, said: “Access to electricity and the internet is patchy; so, in the worst damaged villages in Cianjur, we still don’t fully know how bad it is, as search and rescue efforts continue.

“People are terrified, as they are still experiencing frequent aftershocks with magnitude 1.5 to 4.8. . . Based on what we are hearing from the local government, the most urgent needs are tents and shelter supplies, clean water, access to electricity, communal kitchen access for cooking, and mattresses, especially for children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, and the elderly.”

Many of the dead were killed when poorly constructed buildings collapsed, prompting calls for reconstruction efforts to include earthquake-proof housing.

The director of international programmes at the overseas disability charity CBM, Matthew Hanning, said: “It’s desperately sad to hear about the devastating impact of this earthquake in Cianjur, especially as so many dead or injured were children at school when the quake hit.

“West Java is an area I know well from my years in Indonesia. Our hearts go out to all those affected, and we pray for all those delivering relief and support. As always, we know people with disabilities would have been among those most affected; so our team in Indonesia, who already work with local disability organisations, are reaching out to them to assess the most urgent needs.”

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