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Aid delays for Indonesia quake survivors

Indonesian authorities are struggling to deliver aid to thousands of people evacuated by a deadly earthquake in West Java, as rain-triggered landslides and harsh mountainous terrain have hampered efforts rescue teams.

Monday’s 5.6 magnitude earthquake in the town of Cianjur, about 75 kilometers south of the capital Jakarta, killed at least 271 people and left 40 missing, and left many people sheltering in tents with few medical supplies and aid.

Among the survivors was a woman who gave birth at a makeshift medical center in a tent.

“Conditions are difficult,” President Joko Widodo said of the rugged terrain when he visited Cianjur on Thursday.

“It’s still raining and there are still aftershocks. The ground is unstable, so caution is advised.”

Evacuation remains a priority, he said, adding that he wanted to make sure the distribution went smoothly. He visited emergency tents, distributing food to children.

Suharyanto, the head of the disaster mitigation agency, said many had not received help and officials had rounded up nearly 200 volunteers to help distribute water, instant food, tents and diapers.

With dozens missing, rescuers used dirt diggers and other heavy machinery to clear mud and debris in search of victims.

Some areas that were cut off by landslides could only be reached by helicopter, disaster officials said.

Search efforts have focused on the village of Cijedil, where around 30 people are believed to have been buried under a landslide, Joshua Banjarnahor of the national search and rescue agency told reporters.

Soggy slopes and potential landslides were delaying rescue efforts, the search and rescue agency said on Wednesday, adding the likelihood of finding survivors was decreasing.

Indonesia is one of the most earthquake-prone nations in the world, regularly recording strong earthquakes off the coast where fault lines pass.

Monday’s quake was particularly deadly as it hit a densely populated area at a depth of just 10km.

Poor building standards have also caused buildings to collapse, leading to many deaths, officials said.

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