On the fourth day of an increasingly urgent search, Indonesian rescuers narrowed their work Thursday to a landslide where dozens are believed trapped after an earthquake killed at least 271 people, more than a third of them children.
Many of the more than 1,000 rescue personnel are using backhoe loaders, sniffer dogs and life detectors — as well as jackhammers and bare hands to speed up the search in the worst-hit area of Cijendil village, where people are believed still stuck after a landslide set off by Monday’s quake left tons of mud, rocks and trees in Cugenang sub-district.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur on Thursday and said their focus will be on one location where 39 are still missing.
“The search process will be our priority for now. Concentrate there. And this afternoon, we will concentrate on this one point for search,” Widodo said
“Steep conditions, and it is still raining, and there are still aftershocks. The soil is unstable, so you need to be careful,” he said. “But the Minister of Public Works has ordered his staff, who are used to cutting and filling. I think this can be done soon.”
He added there are also obstacles in distributing supplies to the injured and displaced, who are spread out and hard to reach.
“We hope all victims can be found soon,” Henri Alfiandi, chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency, said Thursday.
On Wednesday, searchers rescued a 6-year-old boy trapped under the rubble of his collapsed house for two days.
More than 2,000 people were injured in the quake that displaced at least 61,000 people to evacuation centres and other shelters after at least 56,000 houses were damaged. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency has said 171 public facilities were destroyed, including 31 schools.
Suharyanto, chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said 100 of the 271 confirmed deaths were children.
Rescue efforts were temporarily suspended Wednesday as heavy monsoon rains fell.
The 5.6 magnitudes of Monday’s earthquake would not typically be expected to cause serious damage. But the quake was shallow and shook a densely populated area that lacked earthquake-resistant infrastructure. Weak aftershocks continued until Thursday morning
More than 2.5 million people live in the mountainous Cianjur district, including about 175,000 in its main town, which has the same name.
President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur on Tuesday and pledged to rebuild its infrastructure and provide assistance of up to 50 million rupiahs ($3,180) to each resident whose house was damaged.
Indonesia is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin known as the “Ring of Fire.”