Rescuers in Indonesia are working through a second night to try to find survivors trapped following an earthquake in West Java. Officials put the death toll at 268, many of them children, with 151 still missing and more than 1,000 injured.
Damaged roads and the vast size of the affected area are making it difficult to locate and help victims. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said that 22,000 houses had been damaged, and that more than 58,000 people had taken shelter in several locations in the region.
The 5.6 magnitude quake struck a mountainous region on Monday, causing landslides that buried entire villages near the West Java town of Cianjur. Victims were crushed or trapped after walls and roofs caved in. “It all happened so fast,” Aprizal told AFP news agency.
A representative of the National Search and Rescue Agency also confirmed that many of the dead were young people. “Most of the casualties are children because at 1pm, they were still at school,” said Henri Alfiandi.
The earthquake, which struck at a shallow depth of 10km (six miles), was followed by dozens of aftershocks which caused more damage as poorly built homes collapsed. In the village of Cibereum, a family was trying to retrieve the body of their eldest son – a 28-year-old man who had been crushed when the other levels of the home fell on him.
President Joko Widodo visited the remote disaster zone on Tuesday where he was pictured with responders.
“My instruction is to prioritise evacuating victims that are still trapped under rubble,” he said.
Hundreds of police and other rescuers are taking part in the rescue effort. Mr Jokowi pledged compensation to affected communities. Save the Children said that at least 80 schools had been damaged.
“Children are terrified and we need to get food, water and shelter to them and ensure they’re not at risk of separation from parents and caregivers,” a spokesperson said.
Earthquakes are common in Indonesia, which sits on the “ring of fire” area of tectonic activity in the Pacific.
The country has a history of devastating tremors and tsunamis, with more than 2,000 people killed in a 2018 earthquake on the island of Sulawesi.