UCA News

Indonesian Catholics rush aid for quake victims

Caritas coordinating assistance and collecting data in affected areas of West Java
One of the houses damaged by the earthquake that struck Cianjur district, West Java province on Nov. 21

One of the houses damaged by the earthquake that struck Cianjur district, West Java province on Nov. 21 (Photo: Caritas Indonesia)

Published: November 22, 2022 10:33 AM GMT
Updated: November 22, 2022 11:56 AM GMT

Indonesian Catholics have taken the initiative in providing assistance to victims of the earthquake in West Java that killed more than 250 people and displaced over 7,000.

Caritas Indonesia is coordinating with teams from the Catholic charity in three dioceses – Bogor, Bandung, and Jakarta – along with other Catholic organizations to provide assistance to victims across four districts.

Fredy Rante Taruk, executive director of Caritas Indonesia, said the coordination was under the control of the Caritas Bureau of Bogor diocese, which oversees the affected areas.

"The team has gone to the field to collect data and determine the response [required] from the Church network," he told UCA News.

The 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck 10 kilometers southwest of the Cianjur district at 1:21 pm on Nov. 21.

West Java governor Ridwan Kamil had told reporters on Nov. 21 night that 162 had died, a majority of them children at an Islamic school who had finished classes for the day and were attending extra lessons.

However, in its statement on Nov. 22, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) stated that the death toll was 102 with 35 people missing and 326 injured.

The Associated Press, later in the day, quoted authorities saying 252 were dead and 31 still missing, as more bodies were discovered beneath the rubble.

In a number of amateur videos circulating on social media during the incident, several buildings in Cianjur were seen almost completely destroyed, while roads were cracked.

BNPB noted that as of the morning of Nov. 22, there were 118 aftershocks with magnitudes between 1.5 and 4.2.

Father Taruk, who is currently in Rome, said they are providing 100,000,000 rupiah [$63,630] for the initial response.

Meanwhile, Doni Akur, a Caritas Indonesia worker, said the post is currently centered at the Church of St. Peter's parish, Cianjur.

“We held a coordination meeting last night. Currently, those in the field who have moved quickly to provide services are volunteers and members of the Catholic Youth," he said.

He said Caritas Indonesia had also sent a team to a coordination meeting with the government regarding further handling of the rescue.

"In addition, the diocese of Bogor has also sent a team of doctors who will coordinate with the government to provide emergency services. Medical services, health and psychological assistance are currently needed," he said.

He said they are still monitoring the event and its impact and have sent a report on its progress to national and international stakeholders.

The earthquake also damaged 3,257 houses and public facilities and 7,064 have been displaced from their homes.

Cianjur parish church and Mardi Yuana Catholic school belonging to Bogor diocese were among the damaged buildings.

In a video sent to UCA News by Father Bonefasius Budiman, the parish priest, the church ceiling can be seen falling to the ground, some parts of the building cracked and statues inside the church falling.

He said they are still looking for data on Catholics who have been affected and what is known so far is that only two students at Mardi Yuana school were injured and are being treated in a hospital.

West Java governor and Cianjur district head have issued a decree stipulating an emergency response period of 30 days.

The joint government apparatus is carrying out search and rescue efforts in affected locations, opening public kitchens, emergency hospitals and preparing refugee tents.

BNPB chairman Suharyanto pledged that damaged houses will be repaired by the government as well as public facilities, such as schools and places of worship.

Indonesia is situated on the so-called "Ring of Fire," a region around the rim of the Pacific basin that is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The country of 280 million is frequently struck by quakes. In February, a quake in West Sumatra province killed at least 25 people and injured 460 people.

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