More than 200 people have been killed by an earthquake that hit the island of Java in Indonesia. Many of the victims were children who were trapped under rubble when the school buildings collapsed.
The quake, which had a magnitude of 5.6 on the Richter scale, struck on Monday. The affected region is mountainous, and, when the tremors occurred, they caused large landslides which engulfed villages near the town of Cianjur in West Java.
Emergency services have been working to find survivors amid the rubble.
Early reports indicate at least 252 people have been killed. According to a social media post by authorities, a further 377 people were injured. Many of the dead are also believed to be young, said a representative from the National Search and Rescue Agency.
“Most of the casualties are children because at 1pm, they were still at school,” commented Henri Alfiandi.
Other fatalities may have been inhabitants of poorly built houses that were more easily toppled by the seism itself or subsequent landslides. The earthquake was followed by several aftershocks which also shook buildings in the surrounding area.
Aprizal Mulyadi, a fourteen-year-old boy who was caught up in the earthquake, said, “the room collapsed and my legs were buried under the rubble.”
Damage and displacement
More than thirteen thousand people have been displaced by the natural disaster, according to Ridwan Kamil, the West Java Governor.
Moreover, Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency BNPB has estimated that over 2,200 homes have been destroyed.
“Buildings were completely flattened,” said Dwi Sarmadi, an educator who works in a district near the most affected areas.
Once the dead and injured are accounted for, Indonesian authorities will have to turn their attention towards re-housing displaced people and repairing infrastructure.
Responses to the earthquake
The Greek Foreign Ministry expressed its condolences for Indonesia on Monday. The department tweeted that it was “devastated by the tragic loss of lives & damage caused by the earthquake that hit West Java.”
“Our thoughts go out to the missing, the injured and to the rescue crews,” the post continued. “We extend sincere condolences to the grieving families and sympathies to the people and the Government of Indonesia.”
Devastated by the tragic loss of lives & damage caused by the earthquake that hit West Java #Indonesia. Our thoughts go out to the missing, the injured & to the rescue crews. We extend sincere condolences to the grieving families & sympathies to the people &the Gov’t of Indonesia pic.twitter.com/TojmClbqf1
— Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών (@GreeceMFA) November 21, 2022
Greece has also recently been hit by earthquakes. On Monday, a 5.5 magnitude earthquake affected Crete, though no deaths or significant damage was caused. Past earthquakes have caused the loss of life in Greece, however.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry likewise expressed its condolences for Indonesia. A press release stated that the ministry felt a “deep sorrow.” Like Greece, Turkey has experienced natural disasters caused by seismic activity in the region. The two states have even provided relief and assistance for each other in the past .
Earthquakes and natural disasters in Indonesia
Seismic activity is high in Indonesia because the country is situated at the center of a complex tectonic zone where the Pacific, Eurasian, and Indo-Australian plates collide.
This week’s earthquake is the fourth major one this year so far. Smaller earthquakes happen almost every day.
Other natural disasters also pose a risk. For example, in November 2018, Indonesia was hit by a tsunami that killed more than 222 people. Volcanoes are another problem. In December 2021, Mount Semeru erupted and killed at least 69 people.