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Indonesia earthquake kills at least 46 on Java island

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At least 46 people died and hundreds more were injured in a 5.6 magnitude earthquake on the Indonesian island of Java on Monday (November 21st), shaking skyscrapers as far away as the capital Jakarta.

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“According to the latest data, 46 people were killed. Around 700 people were injured”said Herman Suherman, head of the city administration of Cianjur, West Java, on Metro TV, referring to the continuous influx of victims.

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“Many families not yet evacuated”

Shops, a hospital and an Islamic boarding school in the city suffered extensive damage as a result of the earthquake, according to local press. Media showed several buildings in Cianjur whose roofs had collapsed. Herman Suherman also reported that relatives of the victims were gathered at Sayang Hospital, warning that the toll could rise as villagers could still be trapped in the rubble.

“There are many families in villages that have not yet been evacuated”. Authorities earlier reported rescuing a woman and baby trapped in a landslide in Cianjur. “We urge people to stay outside buildings for the time being, as there could be possible aftershocks”the director of the Indonesian meteorological agency, Dwikorita Karnawati, told reporters.

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The epicenter was located near this city some 100 kilometers south of Jakarta, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The American geological survey USGS had initially estimated the magnitude of the earthquake at 5.4.

No casualties or major damage were reported in Jakarta immediately but in the capital, people rushed out of buildings. Hundreds of people waited outside after the quake, some wearing hard hats to protect themselves from falling debris, an AFP journalist reported.

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Ring of fire

Indonesia is regularly confronted with earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, due to its position on the “ring of fire” of the Pacific where the tectonic plates meet. In 2018, the island of Lombok and the neighboring island of Sumbawa were hit by a violent earthquake which killed more than 550 people.

In the same year, another earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 triggered a tsunami that hit Palu, on the island of Sulawesi, killing or missing 4,300 people. The island of Java had for its part been affected by an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 in 2006, near the city of Yogyakarta (center), causing around 6,000 deaths and tens of thousands of injuries.

A year earlier, an 8.7 magnitude earthquake hitting the regularly hit coast of Sumatra killed more than 900 people. But the country remains marked by the earthquake of December 26, 2004 with a magnitude of 9.1 off the coast of Sumatra. It caused a major tsunami that killed 220,000 people across the region, including 170,000 in Indonesia alone, one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded.

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