An earthquake in Indonesia has killed more than 160 people and injured hundreds

Updated November 21, 2022 at 2:44 PM ET

CIANJUR, Indonesia — A strong earthquake killed at least 162 people and injured hundreds on Indonesia’s main island on Monday. Frightened local residents fled onto the streets, some covered in blood and debris.

Many of the dead were public school students who had finished classes for the day and were taking extra classes at Islamic schools when they collapsed, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said as he announced the latest death toll in the remote rural area.

Hospitals were overflowing with the injured and it was expected that the death toll would continue to rise. Due to the area’s widely dispersed rural population, estimates were not immediately available, but many buildings collapsed, and residents and rescue workers awaited grim news.

“Buildings have been completely leveled,” said Dwi Sarmadi, who works for an Islamic educational foundation in a neighboring district.

Around 175,000 people live in the city of Cianjur, part of the mountain district of the same name with more than 2.5 million inhabitants. Known for their piety, Cianjur residents live mainly in towns of one- and two-story buildings and in smaller houses in the surrounding countryside.

Kamil said more than 13,000 people whose homes were badly damaged were taken to evacuation centers.

Rescuers treated the injured on stretchers and blankets outside hospitals, on patios and in parking lots in the Cianjur region, about a three-hour drive from the capital, Java. The injured, including children, were given oxygen masks and IV lines. Some have been revived.

Survival stories and near misses

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Cianjur Regional Hospital building, waiting for treatment

“I worked in my office building. The building was not damaged, but when the quake shook very strongly, many things fell down. Heavy stuff hit my leg,” Sarmadi said.

Sarmadi waited near a tent outside the hospital after some overwhelmed clinics were unable to see him. Many people came in worse shape.

“I really hope they get along with me soon,” he said.

Hasan, a construction worker who, like many Indonesians, has a name, is among the survivors being taken to the hospital.

“I passed out. It was very strong,” Hasan said.

“I saw my friends run to escape the building. But it was too late to get out and I got hit by the wall.”

Workers inspect a store damaged in an earthquake in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia on Monday, November 21, 2022.
Workers inspect a store damaged in an earthquake in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia on Monday, November 21, 2022.

Residents, some crying and holding their children, fled damaged homes after the 5.6-magnitude quake struck the region in West Java province at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) late in the afternoon. It also sparked panic in Greater Jakarta, where high-rise buildings swayed and some people were evacuated.

Chunks of concrete and roof tiles fell into bedrooms in many homes in Cianjur.

Shopkeeper Dewi Risma was working with customers when the quake hit and ran to the exit.

“Vehicles on the road stopped because the tremor was very strong,” she said. “I felt it tremble 3 times but the first was the strongest for about 10 seconds. The shop next door to where I work had its roof collapsed and people said two were hit.”

landslides and 25 aftershocks

25 people were still buried in the rubble of the village of Cijedil, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Abdul Muhari said earlier in the day.

Several landslides blocked roads around Cianjur district. A hospital was among the dozens of buildings that were damaged, the agency said. Power outages have been reported.

The Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics recorded at least 25 aftershocks.

“The quake felt so strong. My colleagues and I decided to exit our office on the ninth floor using the emergency stairs,” said Vidi Primadhania, a worker in the capital, where many residents ran into the streets and others hid under desks.

The country of more than 270 million people is often hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location on the “Ring of Fire”, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific basin.

In February, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake in West Sulawesi province killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500.

A powerful Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004 killed nearly 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.

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