At least 268 dead, most of them children, after 5.6 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia

A small group of Indonesians stand near a building in a village where little remains after the earthquake and Tsunami that devastated the region of Sumatra, Indonesia

A small group of Indonesians stand near a building in a village where little remains after the earthquake and Tsunami that devastated the region of Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class M. Jeremie Yoder.

An earthquake of magnitude 5.6 shook this Monday the province of West Java, with almost 50 million inhabitants, the most populated of Indonesia, leaving at least 268 dead, mostly children, and more than 300 injured, in addition to significant damage to homes and infrastructure.

This was confirmed by Ridwan Kamil, governor of West Java, where the epicenter of the earthquake was located. He also put the number of displaced people at more than 13,700, who have been distributed in up to 14 evacuation sites.

According to Kamil, the tremor occurred when schools were open, which is the main reason why most of the deceased are children. “Until tonight we will still be detailing the percentage, but all reports on the ground say that most are children,” he said.

The government spokesman in Cianjur, West Java, had estimated the death toll at around 50, with many of the victims dying in the Sayang hospital there. The chaos, landslides and victims trapped in the rubble make it difficult to determine the exact number. Authorities expect the death toll to rise as the hours pass.

In statements to local media, the administrative head of Cianjur, Herman Suherman, said that due to the devastation caused by the earthquake, many roads and highways in the region are closed and some power distribution stations were affected, which caused power outages in several localities. 

In this regard, Kamil said that more than 2,300 homes have suffered between 60% and total damage to their infrastructure. At least three roads are also known to be cut off, according to Indonesian television channel Kompas.

The U.S. Geological Survey, which records seismic activity worldwide, recorded the earthquake at 13:21 hours (+7 GMT) and located the hypocenter at a depth of 10 kilometers and the epicenter 16.7 kilometers from the town of Cianjur, with a population of about 170,000 people. 

Videos circulating on the Internet show people on stretchers in a hospital in the region and several others receiving medical assistance. The quake also caused damage to homes and infrastructure around Cianjur, which is located about 75 kilometers from Jakarta, where residents also felt the tremors, according to accounts from users on social media.

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has put the magnitude of the earthquake at 5.6 and ruled out “a potential tsunami”. After the initial quake, BMKG recorded 25 aftershocks in just two hours.

According to information reported by the Indonesian television channel Kompas, the large number of injured people has caused some of the patients to be treated in the parking lot of the Cianjur hospital due to the lack of beds to treat all the victims.

In videos released by local authorities it is possible to see dozens of people, some unconscious, receiving medical care and being transferred in ambulances to health centers in the region.

At least four government buildings, three schools, a church and several local businesses were also severely damaged, according to the latest official report.

Indonesia, with a population of some 275 million, lies on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of high seismic and volcanic activity in which some 7,000 earthquakes, most of them moderate, are recorded every year.

One of the deadliest catastrophes in the country took place in 2004, when a strong earthquake in the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra generated a tsunami that caused more than 226,000 deaths in a dozen nations bathed by the Indian Ocean.

-Thailand News (TN)

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