Java quake toll reaches to 64


Pangalengan (Indonesia) : The toll from the powerful earthquake that struck Indonesia’s Java island Wednesday rose to 64 Friday as rescuers searched for 37 people missing, officials said.

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The missing people were among dozens of residents who were buried after a torrent of rocks engulfed their houses in the West Java district of Cianjur after Wednesday’s quake.

About 31,000 houses were damaged and more than 25,000 people were displaced after the magnitude-7.3 earthquake, the National Agency for Disaster Management said.

The agency said more bodies were found Friday, bringing the toll to 64, and the number of people reported missing rose to 37.

The quake also left more than 600 people injured, said Rustam Pakaya, head of the health ministry’s crisis centre.

In the mountainous Pangalengan area of Cianjur, residents began cleaning up debris in their neighbourhoods. Some complained that aid had been slow to reach their area.

“It seems that the government is only paying attention to people in the towns while we are left to our own devices,” said Suryana, whose house was badly damaged in the quake and who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

A 10-member UN team Thursday visited the quake-hit areas to assess emergency relief needs while aid groups such as the Indonesian Red Cross, Oxfam and World Vision began distributing relief supplies.

Ignacio Leon-Garcia, head of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Indonesia, said the destruction caused by the quake was less than earlier feared.

“We need to keep in mind that the region has 38 million inhabitants. It could be much worse,” Leon-Garcia said.

“The impact is less than we expected, although we need to be careful as assessment is still ongoing,” he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who visited affected areas Thursday, said the government had enough resources to deal with the aftermath of the quake and did not yet need international assistance.

The quake also jolted the capital, Jakarta, shaking buildings and sending residents running out of their homes and high-rise office towers screaming in panic. A tsunami alert was issued but cancelled less than an hour later.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, which is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because continental plates meet there.