Indonesia earthquake: Dozens still missing as rescue efforts continue in Java

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By AP  with Euronews
Rescuers cut through the rubble of a collapsed building in Cianjur, West Java
Rescuers cut through the rubble of a collapsed building in Cianjur, West Java   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana

Dozens of people are still missing after a 5.6 magnitude earthquake devastated the Indonesian island of Java on Monday.

The death toll from the quake rose to 268 people on Tuesday, with more than 150 others still unaccounted for.

Many of the dead were school students who had been taking extra classes when the buildings collapsed, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said.

Rescuers have used their bare hands to shift the rubble of flattened buildings in some of the worst affected areas.

The head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency told reporters that 1,083 people were injured and at least 151 missing. Some of the victims of the earthquake have not yet been identified.

Hospitals near the epicentre of Java are already overwhelmed, while some remote areas in Indonesia are still unreachable.

Rescue operations were focused on about a dozen locations in Cianjur -- a region of more than 2.5 million people -- where many are still believed trapped.

The earthquake struck at a depth of 10 kilometres and also caused panic in the capital of Jakarta, where high-rise buildings swayed and some people evacuated.

Initial rescue attempts were hampered by damaged roads and bridges and power outages, and a lack of equipment to help move the heavy rubble

By Tuesday, power supplies and phone communications had begun to improve, while some major roads have been cleared of debris. More than 13,000 people have been moved to evacuation centres.

Cargo trucks carrying food, tents, blankets, and other supplies from the capital, Jakarta, arrived early Tuesday in temporary shelters.

AP Photo/Rangga Firmansyah
Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited a village affected by an earthquake-triggered landslide.AP Photo/Rangga Firmansyah

Indonesia is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location in the Pacific Basin known as the “Ring of Fire".

Many previous earthquakes have been stronger than on Monday but experts say the shallowness of this quake and inadequate infrastructure contributed to the severe damage.

President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur on Tuesday and pledged to rebuild infrastructure, including the main bridge connecting Cianjur to other cities.

“On behalf of myself and on behalf of the government, I would like to express my deep condolences to the victims and their families in this Cianjur earthquake,” Widodo said.

The government has also stated that it would provide assistance of up to 50 million rupiah (€3,100) to each resident whose house was damaged.