Indonesian rescuers focus on landslide as earthquake count rises

A man carries his injured daughter as they make their way to a temporary shelter for those displaced by Monday’s earthquake in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia. The 5.6-magnitude earthquake left hundreds dead, injured and missing as buildings collapsed and terrified residents ran for their lives on Indonesia’s main island, Java. (Tatan Syuflana, Associated Press)

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CIANJUR, Indonesia — On the fourth day of an increasingly urgent search, Indonesian rescue workers on Thursday narrowed their focus to a landslide that left dozens trapped after an earthquake that killed at least 272 people, including more than a third of children.

Many of the more than 1,000 rescuers used excavators, sniffer dogs and life detectors – as well as their bare hands – to search the hardest-hit area of ​​the village of Cijendil in the mountainous Cianjur district, where a landslide triggered by Monday’s earthquake left tons of mud behind. , rocks and broken trees.

Suharyanto, head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said the rescuers plan to use more heavy equipment to search the landslide after using maximum human power.

“Hopefully in the next two days, if the weather is good, we will be able to use heavy equipment and more victims will be found,” Suharyanto said.

The rescue efforts were temporarily suspended on Wednesday because of heavy monsoon rains.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur on Thursday and said rescuers will focus on one location where 39 people are missing.

“The search process will be our priority for now,” Widodo said. “The ground is unstable, so you have to be careful,” he warned.

He said the distribution of relief supplies is difficult because the injured and displaced are scattered and difficult to reach.

“We hope that all victims can be found quickly,” said Henri Alfiandi, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency.

On Wednesday, searchers rescued a 6-year-old boy who was trapped under the rubble of his collapsed house for two days.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency data showed that 100 of the 272 confirmed deaths were children.

Monday’s magnitude 5.6 earthquake injured more than 2,000 people, damaged at least 56,000 homes and displaced at least 62,000 people to evacuation centers and other shelters. The agency said 171 public facilities were destroyed, including 31 schools.

Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said authorities will verify the damage to houses so that reconstruction can begin quickly and the evacuees can return home.

An earthquake of that magnitude is usually not expected to cause serious damage. But Monday’s quake was shallow and shook a densely populated area with no earthquake-resistant infrastructure. Weak aftershocks continued Thursday morning.

More than 2.5 million people live in the Cianjur district, of which about 175,000 live in the capital of the same name.

Widodo has pledged to rebuild the infrastructure and provide relief of up to $3,180 to each resident whose home is damaged.

Indonesia is frequently affected by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location on the arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific basin known as the ‘Ring of Fire’.

Contributing: Edna Tarigan, Associated Press

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