Indonesia struggles to get aid to quake survivors, rescue continues

CIANJUR (Indonesia), Nov 24 ― Indonesian authorities struggled today to get aid to thousands of evacuees displaced by a deadly earthquake in western Java, as rain-triggered landslides and difficult mountainous terrain hampered the efforts of rescue teams.

Monday’s 5.6-magnitude earthquake in the town of Cianjur, about 75km (50 miles) south of the capital Jakarta, killed at least 271 people with 40 missing, and left many sheltering in tents with scant medical and aid supplies.

Survivors included a woman who gave birth at a makeshift medical centre in a tent.

“The conditions are steep,” President Joko Widodo said of the rugged terrain as he visited Cianjur. “It’s still raining and there are still aftershocks. The ground is shaky, so caution is needed.”

Evacuation remains a priority, he said, adding that he wants to make sure distribution goes well. He visited emergency tents, handing out food to children.

Suharyanto, the disaster mitigation agency chief, said many have not received aid and officials have gathered nearly 200 volunteers to help distribute water, instant food, tents and diapers.

With dozens missing, rescuers used earth diggers and other heavy machinery to clear mud and debris in search of victims. Some areas that have been cut off by landslides could only be reached by helicopter, disaster officials have said.

Search efforts focussed on Cijedil village, where about 30 people were thought to be buried under a landslide, Joshua Banjarnahor of the national search and rescue agency, told reporters.

Rain-soaked slopes and potential landslides were delaying rescue efforts, the search and rescue agency said on Wednesday, adding the likelihood of finding survivors was getting slimmer.

Indonesia is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone nations, regularly recording strong earthquakes offshore where fault lines run.

Monday’s quake was particularly deadly because it struck a densely populated area at a depth of just 10 km (6 miles). Poor construction standards also caused buildings to collapse, leading to many deaths, officials said. ― Reuters