A damaged school in Cianjur. Photo Credit Save the Children

Dozens of children are injured and some have lost their lives after a powerful earthquake damaged more than 80 schools while classes were underway on Indonesia’s main island of Java, Save the Children said on Tuesday. 

The latest figures suggested at least 268 people had been killed  in Monday’s 5.6 magnitude earthquake that struck near Cianjur town in West Java, of which 122 bodies had been identified but 155 people were still missing. More than 1,000 were reported injured, and an estimated 7,000 people displaced. Power supplies have been disrupted. 

But the exact number of deaths was still uncertain as rescue operations continued to free people trapped in collapsed buildings and with landslides blocking roads to more remote areas.   

Save the Children has joined Indonesian authorities and other aid agencies in supplying tents as temporary shelters for families who have lost their homes as well as food, water, blankets and medical supplies.

Fadli Usman, response team leader in Cianjur for Save the Children, said children fled their classrooms struck shortly after lunchtime on Monday with the earthquake and following aftershocks reduced hundreds of homes to rubble and caused the roofs of many other buildings to fall in.

Children are terrified and we need to get food, water and shelter to them and ensure they’re not at risk of separation from parents and caregivers. 

“ We don’t know yet how many children have been injured or killed but this earthquake struck when classrooms were full of children. Many fled in tears, not knowing what was happening. We should have a clearer idea in the next 24 hours of the true extent of the damage and the loss of lives and we will be doing everything we can to assist.”

Save the Children Indonesia’s CEO and Chairman Selina Sumbung said  early estimates suggested 660,000 people had been affected by the earthquake which struck a  heavily populated area prone to seismic activity and landside. It was the most deadly earthquake in Indonesia since the 2018 Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami that claimed about 4,340 lives. 

She said to help the immediate needs of children, Save the Children was preparing to distribute 1,250 shelters, 1,000 family and hygiene kits, 100 hygiene kits for children, and 1,000 back to school kits. 

We are setting up child friendly space in 5 locations for at least the next two weeks and we are planning to distribute clean water to temporary shelters,” Fadli Usman added. 

“We are also setting up mechanisms for family tracing and reunification programmes and ensuring the appropriate alternative care for separated children and their long-term care. You cannot underestimate the psychological impact such a traumatic event can have on children and we need to do everything we can to protect them.” 

Save the Children has been operating in Indonesia since 1976 and works in 19 of 38 provinces on humanitarian responses and programmes linked to education, health and nutrition, child protection and poverty.