The difficult race against time to locate the missing

The chances are increasingly slim to find survivors. Mobilizing helicopters and thousands of rescuers, authorities in Indonesia tried Thursday to locate dozens of missing people, three days after the earthquake that killed at least 272 people. Several victims were extracted from piles of concrete and metal under collapsed buildings around the town of Cianjur in West Java, including a six-year-old boy, Azka, who survived two days without water or food. About forty people are still missing, including a little girl that rescuers are trying to find.

The unexpected rescue of young Azka on Wednesday evening revived hopes. “When we realized Azka was alive, everyone burst into tears, including me,” volunteer rescuer Jeksen Kolibu told AFP. “It was very moving, like a miracle”. The boy was found apparently unharmed next to his grandmother’s lifeless body. He was saved by a wall that resisted the shaking, preventing another wall from collapsing on top of him, local media reported. More than a third of the victims of this earthquake are children who were at school or at home when the earthquake occurred, according to the disaster management agency (BNPB).

In Cugenang district, which suffered the most damage, rescuers searched ruins on Thursday using shovels, hammers and bare hands to find a seven-year-old girl, Cika, under the anguished gaze of his mother. “She was playing outside, I was preparing the meal in the kitchen when the earthquake happened. Very quickly, in two seconds my house collapsed,” the mother, Imas Masfahitah, 34, told AFP. “My gut tells me she’s here, because she liked to play here,” she says, pointing to the grandmother’s house where the lifeguards are at work. “Whatever happens, I will try to accept it”. But rescuers suspended the search after dark.

The death toll rose to 272 on Thursday evening after the body of a 64-year-old man was found. More than 2,000 people were injured in the natural disaster. Although the search will continue, rescuers consider that 72 hours after the earthquake, the chances of finding survivors are low. This earthquake is the deadliest in Indonesia since 2018, when the Palu region (Celebes island) was hit by an earthquake and a tsunami which killed more than 4,000 people.

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