Magnitude-5.6 Earthquake Leaves Over 250 Dead in Indonesia

On Monday afternoon (Nov. 21), a magnitude-5.6 earthquake struck Indonesia’s West Java province, killing at least 268 people, many of them schoolchildren, with 151 still missing among the rubble. The death toll is expected to rise. Intensive search and rescue efforts are currently underway across the affected areas. 

The shallow quake struck offshore of Indonesia’s most populous province, causing significant destruction to the town of Cianjur, about 45 miles southeast of the capital, Jakarta. Thousands of houses, schools, infrastructure and roads were severely damaged, and at least one village was buried under a landslide. Disaster agency chief Suharyanto told CNN reporters that more than 1,000 people had been injured and 58,000 displaced.

Landslides and rough terrain hindered immediate rescue efforts, said Henri Alfiandi, head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, Basarnas. Power lines have also been cut off, but are in the process of being restored. 

“The challenge is the affected area is spread out… On top of that, the roads in these villages are damaged,” Alfiandi told reporters.

He also said that many of the victims were young children who were at school at the time.

Search efforts are expected to improve as trucks carrying power sources, food, tents, medicine, and other supplies arrive from Jakarta.

President Joko Widodo visited survivors in Cianjur earlier today, promising to rebuild infrastructure and provide up to 50 million rupiahs ($3,180) to each resident whose house was damaged.

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

Indonesia has a history of devastating natural disasters due to its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. A 6.2-magnitude earthquake in West Sumatra province killed over 20 people in February, and an earthquake the same size took over 100 lives last year in the province of West Sulawesi. But what made yesterday’s earthquake particularly damaging where the shallow depths where the quake struck. 

As relief efforts continue, disaster officials, warn of potentially more landslides to come.


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