CHIANGJUR, Indonesia — In the fourth day of an increasingly urgent search, Indonesian rescuers scaled back their work Thursday in a landslide where dozens are believed to be trapped after an earthquake killed at least 271 people, more than a third of them children .
A day earlier, searchers rescued a 6-year-old boy who had been trapped for two days under the rubble of his collapsed home. Suhariado, head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said he was found alive next to his grandmother’s dead body.
It was the deadliest earthquake in Indonesia since the 2018 Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami that killed an estimated 4,340 people.
Many of the more than 1,000 rescue workers are using backhoe loaders, sniffer dogs and life detectors — as well as hammers and bare hands — to speed up the search in the area of the hardest-hit village of Cijendil, which was hit by a landslide in Monday’s quake. . left tons of mud, rocks and trees in the Cugenang sub-district.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Cianjur on Thursday and said he would focus on a site where 39 are still missing.
“The search process will be our priority for now. Concentrate there. And this afternoon we will focus on this one point to search,” Widodo said.
“The steep conditions and it’s still raining and there are still aftershocks. The ground is unstable, so you have to be careful,” he said. “But the Minister of Public Works ordered his staff, who are used to cut and fill. I think that can be done soon.”
He added that there are also obstacles in distributing supplies to the wounded and displaced which are spread out and difficult to reach.
“We hope that all the victims will be found soon,” Henri Alfiandi, head of the National Search and Rescue Service, said on Thursday.
More than 2,000 people were injured in the quake that displaced at least 61,000 people to evacuation centers and other shelters after at least 56,000 homes were damaged. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency reported that 171 public facilities were destroyed, including 31 schools.
Suhariado, head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said 100 of the 271 confirmed deaths were children.
Rescue efforts were temporarily suspended on Wednesday as heavy rain fell.
Monday’s magnitude 5.6 earthquake is not normally expected to cause serious damage. But the earthquake was shallow and shook a densely populated area that lacks seismic infrastructure. Weak aftershocks continued into Thursday morning.
More than 2.5 million people live in the mountainous region of Cianjur, including about 175,000 in its main city, which has the same name.
Indonesia is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location on the arc of volcanoes and faults in the Pacific basin known as the ‘Ring of Fire’.