“Most of the dead were hit by buildings. Some were hit in the head,” said Herman Suherman, head of the Cianjur regency. “All you can hear here is the sirens of ambulances everywhere.”
How multiple disasters shocked experts and wiped out a corner of Indonesia
More than 2,200 homes were damaged and some 13,000 people were displaced, according to officials. The quake, which struck at a depth of just six miles (10 kilometers), was far more destructive, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Local television footage showed chaos at the scene, with groups of injured people being rushed to hospitals and clinics for treatment, some of them still wrapped in bandages and bleeding. Witnesses said some were transported by ambulance, but others, including young children, were brought in by motorbike or by relatives.
Patients at Cianjur Hospital, some still on stretchers, had to be evacuated outside amid fears the building would collapse. Locals said some members of the crowd ran inside to retrieve tables and other equipment and carried the injured to safety.
Cianjur local reporter Ricky Susan said he was drinking coffee at the military camp when the quake hit. When he fled outside, the building behind him was still shaking violently, and on the opposite side of the barracks, a small supermarket had been destroyed.
“I saw a group of mini-mart workers standing outside the rubble, and they were all crying,” he said. “They told me that one of them did not escape and was buried in the rubble.”
National Disaster Management Agency chief Suharyanto said the immediate priority was to rescue the injured and send them to hospital for treatment. Like many Indonesians, he has a name.
Access to affected areas could become a problem following the earthquake, which appears to have severely damaged infrastructure in the area. Electricity and cell phone service are spotty in parts of Zhanjur.
Dwikorita Karnawati, director of Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, told a news conference that the quake caused landslides on the outskirts of Cianjur, cutting off the road to the Puncak Pass, a mountain road near West Java province.
She added that 45 aftershocks were recorded but no tsunami warning was issued.
The quake was reportedly felt in the neighboring cities of Sukabumi and Bandung. Residents of the capital Jakarta, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Chanjul, also felt significant shaking when the quake struck and some buildings were evacuated.
Indonesia is located in a seismic zone, and earthquakes occur frequently, especially when they are followed by tsunamis, causing heavy casualties. In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami in central Sulawesi killed more than 2,000 people, according to the United Nations. In 2009, an earthquake in southern Sumatra killed 1,117 people.
Indonesia also often experiences extreme weather events and other natural disasters towards the end of the year, when heavy monsoon rains can cause floods and mudslides.
“We need to remain vigilant,” West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil told local reporters, adding that the government was ready for any aftershocks or other emergencies.
“It’s the disaster season at the end of the year and it’s scary,” he added.
Rebecca Tan in Singapore contributed to this report.