Indonesia struggles to reach earthquake survivors, aid continues Reuters


© Reuters. Locals shelter in makeshift tents after an earthquake struck Monday in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, Nov. 24, 2022. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana


Stefanno Sulaiman

CIANJUR, Indonesia (Reuters) – Indonesian authorities struggled to reach thousands of people displaced by a deadly earthquake in West Java province on Thursday, as rain-induced landslides and difficult mountainous terrain hampered efforts by rescue teams.

A 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck the town of Cianjur, about 75 kilometers (50 miles) south of the capital Jakarta, on Monday, killing at least 271 people and leaving thousands sheltering in tents that lack medical and aid supplies.

Suharyanto, head of the disaster mitigation agency, said on Thursday that many people had not received aid and deployed nearly 200 volunteers to help distribute water, convenience food, tents and diapers.

Survivors, including the elderly and young children, huddled in military-style tents far from stricken villages, while others waited in line to receive aid packages from volunteers.

In the village of Sukamanah, residents say they have had to ration food and there are shortages of children’s supplies, including medicine, diapers and milk.

Ema Hermawati, the village chief’s wife, said sanitation was poor as rubbish began to pile up and there was no running water or portable toilets.

President Joko Widodo visited the quake site for the second time on Thursday and urged aid distribution and relief efforts to continue as soon as possible

“Conditions are steep,” he said of the rough terrain, adding that tents and water were in short supply. “The rain is still falling, the aftershocks are still there, the terrain is unstable, so be careful.”

Hope broken

With dozens of people still missing, rescuers used backhoes and other heavy machinery to clear mud and debris in search of victims. Some areas cut off by landslides are only accessible by helicopter.

Hopes of finding survivors are fading, officials say.

Joshua Banjarnahor of the national search and rescue agency told reporters the search had focused on the village of Cijedil, where about 30 people were believed to be buried under the landslide.

Ahman, a 52-year-old food vendor, said he lost his mother, wife and daughter, who he said were buried when his stall on the edge of the cliff collapsed.

“I don’t expect them to be alive because they’ve been buried for four days. I’m going to let them go,” he said.

Indonesia is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, often recording strong quakes offshore where fault lines run.

Monday’s quake was particularly deadly because it hit densely populated areas at a depth of just 10 kilometers (6 miles). Poor construction standards also caused buildings to collapse, killing many, officials said.

Rebuilding Cianjur will have to comply with seismic design codes, says David Sanderson, a disaster risk reduction expert at the School of the Built Environment at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

“Unless carefully managed, reconstruction can be sporadic, incomplete and without awareness of future seismic risk,” he said.

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