Monday’s earthquake unleashed dangerous landslides that swept dozens of houses down the mountain slopes.
Traumatized relatives await news of their missing loved ones after an earthquake struck the city of Cianjur in West Java, Indonesia, on Monday, triggering landslides that are believed to engulf nearby villages.
More heavy machinery was deployed to clear mudslides on Wednesday and the death toll from the magnitude 5.6 quake reached 268. More than 150 people are missing.
One of the hardest-hit districts is Cugenang, where at least one village is believed to have been buried by a landslide.
“If it was just an earthquake, only the houses would collapse, but this is worse because of the landslide,” said Zainuddin, who was searching for six missing relatives.
“In this residential area, there were eight houses, all of which were buried and swept away.”
More than 1,000 police officers have been deployed to reinforce the search and rescue teams.
Jessica Washington of Al Jazeera, which is located in the nearby town of Cejedil, said some 25 houses had been swept into the river by the landslide. About five bodies were found, she said, as rescuers and residents dug through the mud to find survivors.
“Everywhere there are items from everyday life – children’s toys, dishes and other things – that seem almost intact,” he said.
Indonesia is one of the most earthquake-prone countries on Earth and regularly records stronger quakes offshore. But Monday’s temblor was particularly deadly as it struck a densely populated area at a shallow depth of just 10 km (6 miles).
Authorities also said poor construction standards led to many deaths.
During a visit Tuesday to Cianjur, about 75 kilometers (45 miles) south of the capital Jakarta, President Joko Widodo called for reconstruction efforts to include earthquake-proof housing.
Resident Asih Winarsih and her family take temporary shelter in a tent. She told Al Jazeera that she was afraid to return to her home after many houses, particularly those made of brick, were damaged by the tremor.
“In my town, many houses are damaged, there are also dead people,” he said. “My mother’s house is brick and damaged. Mine is wooden, so it’s not broken, but the floor is cracked.”
The quake also damaged hospitals and Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said there was an urgent need to ensure that doctors could operate on the most seriously injured people.
“My priority is that there are no more deaths,” he said during a visit to the disaster area.
“The first priority is to make sure seriously injured patients are cared for so they can survive.”