CIANJUR, Nov 23 (AP): More rescuers and volunteers were deployed on Wednesday in devastated areas on Indonesia’s main island of Java to search for the dead and missing from an earthquake that killed at least 271 people.
With many missing, some remote areas still unreachable and more than 2,000 people injured in the 5.6 magnitude quake on Monday, the death toll was likely to rise.
Hospitals near the epicentre on the densely populated island were already overwhelmed, and patients hooked up to IV drips lay on stretchers and cots in tents set up outside, awaiting further treatment.
More than 12,000 army personnel were deployed on Wednesday to increase the strength of search efforts that being carried out by more than 2,000 joint forces of police, the search and rescue agency and volunteers, said Suharyanto, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency chief.
Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said aid was reaching thousands of people left homeless who fled to temporary shelters where supplies can be distributed only by foot over the rough terrain.
He said rescuers recovered three bodies Wednesday and rescued a 6-year-old boy who was found alive next to the dead body of his grandmother after spending two days trapped under the rubble of his collapsed house.
Television reports showed police, soldiers and other rescue personnel using jackhammers, circular saws and sometimes their bare hands and farm tools, digging desperately in the worst-hit area of Cijendil village where tons of mud, rocks and trees were left from a landslide.
The government appeared to be focused on finding bodies, and wherever possible, survivors. Authorities struggled to bring tractors and other heavy equipment over washed-out roads after earthquake triggered landslides crashing onto the hilly hamlets.
But still, residents said the government was slow to respond to the earthquake.
Muhammad Tohir, 48, was sitting in his living room with family in Cijendil when the catastrophe struck. Although his family managed to make it out, his sister and her two children was crushed by a landslide, a few kilometres (miles) of his house.
“When I came to my sister’s house, I was devastated by what I saw,” Tohir said. “Dozens of houses had been buried by landslides. … I feel like doomsday.”
He said more than 40 houses in his sister’s neighbourhood in Cijendil were buried under tons of mud with at least 45 people were buried alive, including Tohir’s sister and her two children.
Tohir, along with other residents in the area, searched for the missing using farm tools and managed to pull out two bodies buried under as much as 6 metres (10 feet) of mud. Two days later, rescue personnel arrived to help in the search.
“The government too slow to respond to this disaster,” Tohir said. “They should be bringing in heavy equipment to speed this up,” he said.
But he said that he will not give up until they can pull his sister and his nieces out of the mud.
In several hard-hit areas, water, food and medical supplies were being distributed from trucks, and authorities have deployed military personnel carrying food, medicine, blankets, field tents and water tankers.
Volunteers and rescue personnel erected more temporary shelters for those left homeless in several villages of Cianjur district.
About 800 police, soldiers and volunteers dug through the debris with their bare hands, shovels and hoes as heavy rain hindered their efforts.