The country of more than 270 million people is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the ‘Ring of Fire’.

A shallow earthquake rattled Indonesia’s main island of Java, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds of others with fears the casualty figures could rise.

The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Monday was centred in the Cianjur region in West Java province at a depth of 10km (6.2 miles). It sent residents in the capital, Jakarta, running to the streets for safety.

West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil confirmed 56 deaths from the quake. About 700 people were injured, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said.

“So many buildings crumbled and shattered,” Ridwan told reporters. “There are residents trapped in isolated places … so we are under the assumption that the number of injured and deaths will rise with time.”

Hundreds of buildings were damaged, including an Islamic boarding school, a hospital and other public facilities.

Herman Suherman, a government official from Cianjur, said the town’s Sayang hospital had no power after the quake, leaving doctors unable to operate on victims.

Cianjur town is 75km (35 miles) southeast of Jakarta. Footage from Metro TV showed structures in Cianjur reduced almost entirely to rubble as worried residents huddled outside.

‘Huge tremor’

The earthquake was felt strongly in the Greater Jakarta area. High-rises in the capital swayed and some were evacuated.

“The quake felt so strong. My colleagues and I decided to get out of our office on the ninth floor using the emergency stairs,” said Vidi Primadhania, an employee in south Jakarta.

Muchlis, who was in Cianjur when the quake hit, said he felt “a huge tremor” and the walls and ceiling of his office building were damaged.

“I was very shocked. I worried there will be another quake,” Muchlis told Metro TV, adding people ran out of their houses, some fainting and vomiting because of the strong tremors.

Dwikorita Karnawati, head of the weather and geophysics agency BMKG, advised people to stay outdoors in case of aftershocks.

In the two hours after the quake, 25 aftershocks were recorded, BMKG said, adding there was a danger of landslides, especially in the event of heavy rain.

“We call on people to stay outside the buildings for now as there might be potential aftershocks,” Karnawati told reporters.

Arc of volcanoes

Earthquakes occur frequently across the sprawling archipelago nation, but it is uncommon for them to be felt in Jakarta.

The country of more than 270 million people is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire”, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In February, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500 in West Sulawesi province.

A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed nearly 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most in Indonesia.


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