JAKARTA (Reuters) – The death toll from the earthquake that struck Indonesia’s main island of Java stands at 268, the National Disaster Management Agency said on Tuesday, as rescuers rushed to reach the survivors trapped under the rubble.
At least 151 people are still missing after the 5.6 magnitude earthquake hit the mountainous province of West Java on Monday afternoon. The quake struck at a depth of 10 km, injuring more than 1,000 people by triggering landslides and damaging more than 22,000 buildings.
Efforts to reach victims have been hampered by power outages, damaged roads and landslides, local hospitals reportedly treating hundreds of injured in stretches outside main buildings, in parking lots and open spaces open.
Officials are still working to identify the victims, said Suharyanto, the head of the National Disaster Management Agency, or BNPB.
“We have identified at least 122 bodies…other than that, there are still victims who are missing and we are continuing our search,” Suharyanto told a news conference, adding that some of those who have identified were children.
President Joko Widodo visited the epicenter of the earthquake in Cianjur on Tuesday and said the government would pay compensation to the victims and their families to rebuild the damaged houses, adding that the dwellings must be built to withstand the earthquake.
“For the victims who are still trapped, I have given orders to prioritize their evacuation and rescue,” Widodo told reporters.
Dwikorita Karnawati, head of Indonesia’s meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG), said 145 aftershocks were recorded as of Tuesday afternoon, adding that they would decrease in frequency over the next four days.
“This earthquake, based on research and analysis by BMKG, is an earthquake with a return period of about 20 years,” Karnawati said.
“This means that an earthquake would probably occur again in about 20 years, so during the reconstruction period it is very important to ensure that the buildings will be resistant to earthquakes,” she said. added.
The Indonesian archipelago sits on what is known as the “Ring of Fire”, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines along the Pacific basin that result in a high frequency of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Cianjur district is considered one of the most disaster-prone areas in Indonesia, suffering from frequent floods, landslides, droughts and geological hazards. Monday’s quake was felt in other parts of Java, including the city of Bandung and Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, where people left tall office buildings and reported shaking and moving furniture.
In 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed nearly 230,000 people in more than a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.