An Indonesian official said on Tuesday that children who died when their schools collapsed were among those killed in the earthquake that devastated the town in West Java province, and rescuers were racing against time to reach those trapped under the rubble.
Hundreds of people were injured in the quake, and officials warned the death toll was likely to rise.
The 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit a mountainous area in Indonesia’s most densely populated West Java province, causing severe damage to the town of Cianjur and a landslide that buried at least one village.
Henri Alfiande, head of the national search and rescue agency Basarnas, said landslides and rough terrain were hampering rescue efforts, according to Reuters.
“The challenge is that the affected area is wide… Moreover, roads have been damaged in these villages,” Alfiande told a news conference, adding that more than 13,000 people had been evacuated.
“Most of the victims are children because they were still in school at one o’clock in the afternoon,” he said, referring to the time of the quake.
Officials reported that many of the deaths resulted from victims being stranded under collapsed buildings.
President Joko Widodo went to Cianjur on Tuesday to motivate the rescuers. “I recommend that you give priority to evacuating the victims who are still trapped under the rubble,” he said.
He offered his condolences to the victims and pledged emergency government support. He said that the reconstruction will inevitably include housing equipped to withstand earthquakes to protect against disasters in the future.
During the night, victims filled the car park of a hospital in Cianjur, and some were treated in makeshift tents or on the sidewalk.
“Everything collapsed under me,” Coco, 48, told Reuters from the crowded parking lot.
“Two of my children survived. I pulled them out from under the rubble,” she said, crying. “I brought two others here, and one is still missing.”
Hundreds of police officers were deployed on Tuesday morning to assist in rescue efforts, national police spokesman Didi Prasetyo told the state-run Antara news agency.
“Today’s main task for personnel is to focus on evacuating the victims,” he added.
Indonesia has a history of devastating earthquakes.
In 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake off the island of Sumatra in northern Indonesia triggered a tsunami that hit 14 countries, killing 226,000 people along the Indian Ocean coast, more than half of them in Indonesia.