Trapped amid destruction: Improbable tales of survival from Cianjur quake

Azka, a 5-year-old boy, being carried by his father following his rescue after he was trapped under the rubble of his house for two days. Photo: Fire department
Azka, a 5-year-old boy, being carried by his father following his rescue after he was trapped under the rubble of his house for two days. Photo: Fire department

At least 271 people were killed after a 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck Cianjur Regency, West Java on Nov. 21. As of the morning of Nov. 24, the search is still on for at least 40 people who are believed to be trapped under rubble amid immense destruction from the quake.

As the days go by, it will become increasingly likely for the count for those missing to dwindle while the death toll consequentially rises. Yet a couple of improbable tales of survival from Cianjur have given us hope for more good news from the region.

On Nov. 23, two days after the quake leveled buildings in Cianjur, rescuers retrieved a 5-year-old boy named Azka from under the rubble. Amid chants of praise to God, Azka was immediately handed over to his father, with a look of immense relief and gratitude washing over his face.

Azka was rushed to a nearby hospital. This morning, his uncle said the boy, who has a bruise on his right leg, is doing fine and that he is recovering his appetite.

The uncle explained that Azka was in his room when the quake struck and destroyed his home. The family had almost lost hope after rescuers were unable to find Azka during their initial search around the rubble that was once the family home.

Another survivor, Nurhayati, 27, was at a madrasah (Islamic school) for a Quran recital when the building shook. She said it didn’t take long for the school to collapse, trapping her inside while other congregants had rushed outside.

“I was trapped inside from 2pm to 6pm,” Nurhayati recalled.

Rescuers managed to locate Nurhayati, whose body was pinned down by rubble, and evacuated her from the school. She was taken to a hospital, where she is being treated for a fracture in her right leg.

With more than 22,000 homes severely damaged in the earthquake, one can only appreciate the rescuers as they face the immense and daunting task of trying to save as many people as possible before time runs out. 

In the immediate future, the well-being of the 61,908 people forced to take refuge in shelters and the 2,043 who were injured during the quake are also of paramount importance. Looking ahead, Cianjur may be reeling from the pain and destruction for a long time yet, and it’s up to the government to ensure that the regency can fully recover.

More Cianjur coverage

The Conversation: Why are shallow earthquakes more destructive? The disaster in Java is a devastating example
By Phil R. Cummins, Australian National University; Mudrik Rahmawan Daryono, BRIN; Stacey Servito Martin, Australian National University On November 21 2022 an earthquake near the Indonesian city of Cianjur in…
The Conversation: Why are shallow earthquakes more destructive? The disaster in Java is a devastating example
By Phil R. Cummins, Australian National University; Mudrik Rahmawan Daryono, BRIN; Stacey Servito Martin, Australian National University On November 21 2022 an earthquake near the Indonesian city of Cianjur in…

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