Cianjur, Indonesia (AFP):
Survivors of an Indonesian earthquake that killed at least 271 people, many of them children, appealed for food and water Wednesday as heavy rain and aftershocks hampered rescue efforts among the rubble of devastated villages.
The calls for help came as authorities warned that debris from landslides caused by the strong quake near the town of Cianjur in West Java needed to be cleared as rains forecast for the coming weeks threatened a second disaster.
Two days after the quake flattened their homes, residents were still trying to retrieve priceless belongings including family photos, religious books and marriage certificates.
“Although some supplies have arrived, it is not enough. We got rice, instant noodles, mineral water but it’s not enough,” Mustafa, a 23-year-old resident of Gasol village, told AFP.
Mustafa had just dug through the rubble of an elderly neighbour’s house at her request, appearing from the destroyed facade carrying a pile of clothes before returning to collect rice, a gas stove, canisters and frying pans.
In Talaga village, some residents put signs on the windows of damaged houses and the front of tents that read “We need help!”
In the streets, at least three people held up cardboard boxes, asking for donations. Evacuees crammed under flimsy tents, unable to move inside from the rain in case buildings collapse from an aftershock.
A shallow 3.9-magnitude aftershock sent panicked evacuees running from shelters on Wednesday, according to an AFP reporter at the scene. Authorities had recorded 171 aftershocks as of Wednesday evening.
More than 61,000 people have been displaced by the quake, around 2,000 are injured and 40 missing, the national disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said Wednesday.
Around a third of those found dead so far are believed to be children, BNPB chief Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told a press conference, without providing an exact figure.
The government has dispatched tents and other supplies to Cianjur for the displaced, and the military deployed 12,000 personnel on Wednesday, officials said.
Heavy rain was hampering those efforts in about a dozen villages where more than 22,000 houses had been destroyed.
“For the refugees… their basic life necessities must be guaranteed — water, food, that’s non-negotiable,” Suharyanto said.