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Desperate Search for Relatives in Quake-Hit Indonesian District

By Johan Purnomo and Tommy Ardiansyah

CIANJUR (Reuters) – For hours Aris stared at an excavator working its way through mounds of earth on the Indonesian island of Java in the hope it might uncover some trace of his loved ones, missing after a 5.6-magnitude earthquake destroyed their home.

The 45-year-old had spent hours walking to the district of Cugenang where his relatives lived until disaster struck on Monday. The death toll from the quake in Indonesia’s most populous province of West Java was 162 and expected to rise, officials said.

“When I got here, nothing was left. Everything was buried,” Aris said, gesturing at a huge mound of brown earth where his brother’s home had stood.

The shallow quake that struck in a mountainous area early on Monday afternoon triggered a landslide that authorities say has buried at least one village.

“I am here because I need to find my family, my sister-in-law. She was buried under this landslide. There were three: the mother and two children,” Aris said.

His brother was missing nearby area, he said.

More than 24 hours after the quake struck, emergency workers were racing to pull victims from the rubble of buildings and clear areas cut-off by landslides, with officials saying dozens were missing.

Recovery efforts were complicated by power cuts and damaged roads over a large area, they said.

More than 13,000 people had been evacuated and at least 2,200 houses were damaged, authorities said.

Straddling the so-called Ring of Fire, a highly seismically active zone where different plates on the earth’s crust meet, Indonesia has a history of devastating earthquakes.

By Tuesday afternoon, Aris was becoming resigned to his loss.

“We leave it to God,” he said, “What matters is we tried. Then we have to let them go.”

(Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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