“Most of the dead were collapsed buildings. Some were hit in the head,” said Herman Suherman, head of the Cianjur administration. “All I hear here is ambulance sirens everywhere.”
Many disasters have surprised experts, and how much damage has been done to one corner of Indonesia.
More than 2,200 homes were destroyed and about 13,000 people were displaced, officials said. According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake occurred at a depth of only six miles (10 km), and the quake was getting worse.
Local television reports of the injured; The bandaged and bleeding crowd showed scenes of chaos as they rushed to hospitals and clinics for treatment. Some were taken by ambulance, but others, including children, were taken on motorbikes or carried by relatives, witnesses said.
Some of the patients in Cianjur Hospital on stretchers had to be moved outside for fear of the building collapsing. Residents said some of the crowd rushed inside to retrieve tables and other items to carry the injured to safety.
Ricky Susan, a local reporter in Cianjur, said he was drinking coffee in an army barracks when the earthquake struck. As he ran outside, the building behind him was still shaking violently, and a mini mart across the barracks was destroyed.
“I saw a group of mini-market workers standing outside the ruins, all crying,” he said. “One of them said they were buried in the rubble because they didn’t come out.”
Suharyanto, head of the National Disaster Management Agency, said the priority was to rescue the injured and receive medical treatment. Like most Indonesians, he goes by one name.
Access to the affected area is likely to be a problem after the earthquake, and infrastructure in the area appears to have been significantly damaged. Electricity and cell phone service is shaky in parts of Cianjur.
Weather in Indonesia Climate and Geophysical Agency chief Dwikorita Karnawati told a press conference that the quake triggered landslides on the outskirts of Cianjur and cut off roads from Puncak Pass, a mountain pass in West Java.
He added that 45 aftershocks were recorded but no tsunami warning was issued.
The earthquake was reported in the nearby cities of Sukabumi and Bandung. Residents in the capital Jakarta, about 60 miles (100 km) northwest of Cianjur, felt significant shaking when the quake struck, forcing the evacuation of some buildings.
Indonesia is in a seismic zone and frequently experiences earthquakes that can cause significant casualties, especially after tsunamis. In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit central Sulawesi island, killing more than 2,000 people, the United Nations said. In 2009, an earthquake in southern Sumatra killed 1,117 people.
Indonesia often experiences extreme weather conditions and other natural disasters towards the end of the year, with floods and mudslides caused by heavy monsoon rains.
“We need to be cautious,” West Java governor Ridwan Kamil told local reporters, adding that the government was ready to respond to aftershocks or other emergencies.
“It’s a terrible disaster season towards the end of the year,” he added.
Rebecca Tan in Singapore contributed to this report.