Strong quake topples houses in Indonesia’s Java; 162 dead

Workers in hardhats inspect a collapsed section of a building.
Workers inspect a store damaged during an earthquake in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia. An earthquake shook Indonesia's main island of Java on Monday, killing a number of people, damaging dozens of buildings and sending residents into the capital's streets for safety.
Firman Taqur | AP

Updated 10:48 a.m.

A strong, shallow earthquake toppled buildings and walls on Indonesia’s densely populated main island on Monday, killing at least 162 people and injuring hundreds of others as residents fled into the street, some covered in blood and debris.

Officials were gathering information on the toll of those injured and killed by the quake in the remote area.

West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said the number of confirmed dead had risen to 162.

“The majority of those who died were children,” he said. Many were public school students who had finished their regular classes for the day and were taking extra lessons at Islamic schools, he said. Cianjur is known for having a large number of Islamic boarding schools and mosques.

“So many incidents occurred at several Islamic schools,” Kamil said.

He said more than 13,000 people whose homes had been heavily damaged were being taken to evacuation centers.

People tend to the injured who lay on the ground.
People injured during an earthquake receive medical treatment in a hospital parking lot in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia on Monday.
Firman Taqur | AP

Emergency workers treated the injured on stretchers and blankets outside hospitals, on terraces and in parking lots in the Cianjur region, about three hours drive from the capital, Java. The injured, including children, were given oxygen masks and IV lines and were being resuscitated.

“I fainted. It was very strong,” said Hasan, a construction worker who, like many Indonesians, uses one name. “I saw my friends running to escape from the building. But it was too late to get out and I was hit by the wall.”

Residents, some crying and holding children, fled damaged homes after the magnitude 5.6 quake shook the region in West Java province in the late afternoon, at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). It also caused panic in the greater Jakarta area, where high-rises swayed and some people evacuated.

Rescue teams and civilians in Cianjur were looking for people buried in collapsed brick homes. In many homes, chunks of concrete and roof tiles fell inside bedrooms.

Shopkeeper Dewi Risma was working with customers when the quake hit, and she ran for the exit.

“The vehicles on the road stopped because the quake was very strong,” she said. “I felt it shook three times, but the first one was the strongest one for around 10 seconds. The roof of the shop next to the store I work in had collapsed, and people said two had been hit.”

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said that the death toll reached 62 and hundreds were injured. More than 5,000 people are being evacuated.

Twenty-five people were still stuck buried in the debris in Cijedil village, said agency spokesman Abdul Muhari.

Several landslides closed roads around the Cianjur district. Among the dozens of buildings that were damaged was an Islamic boarding school, a hospital and other public facilities, the agency said. Power outages were reported.

Ridwan Kamil, West Java governor, said that the local government, national police and Indonesian military were still gathering information.

“Because Cianjur is characterized by many places that are very remote, so we need that data to determine the situation,” Kamil said.

Most of the victims and survivors were taken to the government hospital in Cianjur.

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency recorded at least 25 aftershocks.

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

The country of more than 270 million people is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of 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 killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500 in West Sulawesi province.

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