Indonesia Earthquake Takes a Heavy Toll on Children

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Children accounted for a 3rd of the astatine slightest 272 dormant erstwhile an earthquake deed Indonesia this week. Experts accidental the catastrophe highlights mediocre gathering standards successful agrarian areas.

Neng Didah, 34, holding a photograph  of her daughter, Dewi Hani, connected  Thursday. Hani died erstwhile   her schoolhouse  collapsed successful  an earthquake successful  West Java connected  Monday.

By Dera Menra Sijabat, Mike Ives and Seth Mydans

Photographs by Ulet Ifansasti

Dera Menra Sijabat reported from Sarampad, an Indonesian colony adjacent the epicenter of the earthquake.

Nov. 24, 2022, 7:27 a.m. ET

Like astir different children crossed Indonesia, Dewi Hani, 4, typically spent her afternoons studying astatine an Islamic school. She had been learning to constitute the Arabic alphabet successful a notebook that she kept wrong her bluish backpack, on with a pencil and a Quran.

This Monday day was nary antithetic — until the infinitesimal erstwhile a 5.6 magnitude earthquake flattened structures successful the area. Hani was 1 of 5 students killed erstwhile her two-story Islamic schoolhouse collapsed successful a colony a fewer twelve miles from Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.

Hani’s mother, Neng Didah, 34, rushed to the schoolhouse and saw its 2nd level sitting connected the ground. The archetypal level — wherever her girl studied — had disappeared.

“I abruptly felt weak,” Ms. Neng said connected Thursday successful the village, Sarampad. “I heard voices calling ‘Mama, mama, mama,’ but I didn’t admit immoderate of them.”

The authoritative decease toll from the quake, which struck a mountainous area of the country’s main island, Java, was 272 arsenic of Thursday. That whitethorn beryllium a important undercount. Officials accidental it is already wide that astir a 3rd of the dormant were children, galore of whom were trapped successful homes oregon schools that crumbled.


The grade of the structural failures has called attraction to what experts accidental is simply a persistent occupation successful Indonesia: a glaring disparity betwixt gathering prime successful municipality and agrarian areas.

Even though Indonesia has gathering codes, they are “difficult to enforce, and determination is simply a deficiency of supervision and enforcement from the government, particularly successful agrarian areas,” said Elisa Sutanudjaja, the enforcement manager astatine the Rujak Center for Urban Studies, a probe institute successful Jakarta.

Large and tiny earthquakes hap virtually each time successful Indonesia, a state of astir 270 cardinal radical that sits astatine the gathering constituent of respective tectonic plates and on an arc of volcanoes and responsibility lines. Devastation from almighty earthquakes has been exacerbated by landslides caused by deforestation, small-scale mining and municipality development.

“They are each going to get worse, due to the fact that clime alteration is going to marque them worse,” Benjamin P. Horton, manager of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, said.


Major earthquakes person added urgency to an effort to rise operation prime crossed Indonesia to standards that purpose to marque homes and different buildings capable to withstand earthquakes without collapsing. But caller earthquakes person exposed a wide gulf betwixt municipality and agrarian gathering standards.

In 1 example, the demolition of buildings aft an earthquake deed the island of Lombok successful 2018 was chiefly attributed to “design inconsistency,” including noncompliance with rules connected structural reinforcement, according to a July study connected Indonesian gathering codes.

Kerry Sieh, a seismologist who has studied Indonesia, said that authorities offices, hotels and different ample buildings, peculiarly successful Jakarta, person been brought up to codification and would beryllium precise harmless during earthquakes.

But one- oregon two-story buildings are much communal crossed the state extracurricular cities, helium said. Many are built with excessively small reinforcing robust and poor-quality concrete, and they thin to illness erstwhile earthquakes shingle them.

Indonesia’s nationalist gathering codes were mostly adapted from those of New Zealand and the United States. Municipalities are required to nutrient their ain codes, on with disaster-risk assessments and spatial-planning regulations.


But lone astir 30 percent of them person produced their ain gathering codes, and galore that person codes cannot enforce them due to the fact that of deficiency of backing and staffing, oregon geographical challenges, Ms. Sutanudjaja said. In agrarian areas, galore houses are built by their occupants, and the prime of the operation depends connected their socio-economic situation, she added.

“Oftentimes, adjacent successful a large metropolis similar Jakarta, the readying papers does not correspond with the hazard assessment,” she said. “So, basically, galore settlements are already hotbeds for the adjacent earthy disaster, specified arsenic earthquakes.”

The quake that struck Java connected Monday concentrated its powerfulness connected Cianjur Regency, an cultivation portion southbound of Jakarta.

If the brick-and-concrete operation wherever Hani died had been funded by the government, its contractor would person had to comply with nationalist gathering codes, according to Ms. Sutanudjaja. Because it was funded privately, it had to comply alternatively with section codes that had been implemented successful 2013.


Komariah, an authoritative successful a territory wrong the regency who goes by lone 1 name, said that galore radical successful the country physique connected hilly terrain and cannot spend materials that would marque their structures safer.

Hani’s Islamic school, known arsenic a madrasa, went done 3 stages of construction, according to Muhammad Yusuf Supriatna, a unpaid teacher whose household owns the school. In 1997, it was built arsenic a one-story, 13-by-30-foot structure. In 2006, its dimensions were accrued to 20-by-41 feet, helium said. And successful 2016, a 2nd communicative was added, financed by a $7,000 donation from an capitalist successful the Middle East.

“We built this madrasa by ourselves, helped by the neighbors,” helium said. “We don’t person the gathering permit, but I consulted with a person who is simply a operation expert.”

For a 4th century, the madrasa withstood earthquakes without adjacent showing a crack. But the 1 that struck connected Monday day toppled the 2nd story, sidesplitting Hani and 3 different girls, aged 6, 7 and 12, arsenic good arsenic a 10-year-old boy. Three different children were injured.


Hani was a quiet, obedient kid who had been learning however to constitute numbers and admit the letters of the alphabet, her mother, Ms. Neng, said during an affectional interview. Her favourite doll was Hello Kitty, and she liked to devour atom with some brackish and soy sauce.

When Hani near the location connected Monday, Ms. Neng was engaged frying potatoes for her husband, a thoroughfare vendor. She stopped to assistance zip the girl’s achromatic formal and tidy her hijab, and to springiness her astir 13 cents successful pouch money.

When the earthquake hit, Ms. Neng and her hubby focused connected helping an aged neighbor. But aft a fewer minutes, her hubby began shouting: “Hani, where’s Hani?”

They ran to Hani’s madrasa and panicked erstwhile they saw that its 2nd communicative had collapsed. Other children were crawling retired done a tiny spread nether the rubble. A teacher told them not to worry.


Ms. Neng called Hani’s sanction for an hour, but the miss ne'er emerged. Officials yet brought the mates to a adjacent evacuation structure wherever they would beryllium safer from the earthquake’s aftershocks.

“In the tent, I kept connected praying, asking God to prevention her,” she said. “But God didn’t prevention her.”

Hani’s assemblage was discovered astir 12:30 a.m., and she was buried 9 hours aboriginal successful a achromatic shroud, an Islamic ceremonial custom.

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