The earthquake in Indonesia left tens of thousands displaced, houses were destroyed

Rescue workers continued to search for dozens of people still missing after a 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia on Monday, killing at least 271 people, many of them children, and displacing tens of thousands who are now living in makeshift shelters. refuges, the destruction of the country. – said the administration.

Victims were buried under their homes, schools or places of worship, or killed in landslides triggered by the earthquake. Thousands of rescue workers have rushed in, some with dogs, to search the wreckage, the agency said Wednesday.

The number of injured nearly doubled in the past day to more than 2,000, according to the agency.

Extensive damage to homes in West Java’s Cianjur district, where the quake was centered, means residents would struggle with the disaster for months. More than 56,000 homes were damaged and nearly 62,000 people were displaced, according to official statistics.

Families set up makeshift tents in front of their damaged homes or moved with what belongings they could salvage into shelters set up by the government. Authorities said they had set up public kitchens and medical facilities in 14 locations across the region.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited the area on Tuesday and promised financial aid to victims whose homes were destroyed. He stressed the importance of rebuilding to earthquake-proof standards to better prepare for future disasters in a country frequently hit by deadly earthquakes.

Monday’s earthquake and the two previous major earthquakes to hit this region of Indonesia occurred about 20 years apart, which could indicate an emerging pattern, the head of the country’s meteorological agency said on Tuesday.

An emergency scene outside a hospital in Cianjur, Indonesia. The number of people injured by the earthquake exceeded 2,000 last day.


Photo:

STAFF/REUTERS

Sri Widiyantoro, a professor of seismology at the Bandung Institute of Technology, said the earthquake’s shallow depth of 6.2 miles and the poor construction of buildings in the affected villages made the incident particularly devastating. Seismic waves decrease in intensity as they move farther from their source, a gradual weakening called attenuation.

“If an earthquake is deep in the earth, when the waves come to the surface they have weakened,” said Mr Widiyantoro. “But if it’s shallow, there’s not as much attenuation, which is why shallow earthquakes are so dangerous, because the energy is still quite high by the time it reaches the surface.”

He said that despite the government’s efforts to increase disaster preparedness, there are still many villages in Indonesia where building construction is poor.

Landslides worsened the situation, increasing the death toll, closing roads and delaying rescue efforts.

“The shaking itself facilitates the landslide, so a large number of casualties are due to this secondary risk” of landslides, said Shengji Wei, principal investigator at the Earth Observatory in Singapore.

Mr. Wei said that predicting the region’s seismic activity is difficult because it does not yet have a clear mapping of faults, which is compiled from data collected over time. However, looking at the historical data he said, “You can expect another one.”

“People are already living in these dangerous places,” he said. “It’s very difficult for people to relocate, so there’s not such a simple and straightforward way to really dramatically change the situation.”

Rescuers searched for bodies and survivors under piles of rubble after a 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia’s main island of Java. More than 260 people were killed, officials said Tuesday. Photo: Aditya Aji/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Write to Feliz Solomon at feliz.solomon@wsj.com

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