CIANJUR: A seven-year-old Indonesian girl who was the subject of a day-long rescue effort after an earthquake killed at least 310 people in West Java has been found dead, rescuers told AFP Friday.
Emergency workers found the body of Ashika Nur Fauziah, also known as Cika, under rubble in the worst-hit district of Cugenang, the epicentre of the quake that triggered landslides, collapsed buildings and buried victims in mounds of earth on Monday.
“The body was immediately handed over to the family,” 28-year-old rescuer Jeksen Kolibu told AFP. “The family… was very sad.”
Dozens of rescuers had spent most of Thursday using digging tools, hammers and their bare hands to clear debris in the delicate mission, which was suspended overnight.
Cika was found under three layers of concrete on Friday morning, said Kolibu. Workers found her face-down, encased by debris, with little space to breathe.
Rescuers covered her face and put her into a bodybag as her father Ahmad watched on, holding his head in despair. He did not utter a word as she was handed over to him.
Cika was buried at a nearby cemetery less than an hour after being found.
At the funeral, a cleric tried to calm a visibly emotional Ahmad. Cika was then wrapped in a white sheet and lowered into the ground by three men as exhausted volunteers and firefighters watched.
Indonesia’s national disaster mitigation agency chief, Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, raised the toll from the quake to 310 on Friday.
He said at least 24 people remain missing after the quake caused landslides and building collapses in the West Java town of Cianjur.
‘Makes me sad’
The focus of the search had been the girl’s grandmother’s house, across the road from the family home, where her mother believed she had been playing when the earthquake struck.
“She was playing outside, I was cooking in the kitchen, suddenly the earthquake happened, so fast, only two seconds, my house collapsed,” her mother Imas Masfahitah, 34, told AFP at the scene on Thursday.
“Whatever happens, I will try to accept it,” she added, crying as she held her daughter’s sandals.
Hopes of a happy outcome had been raised following the dramatic rescue of a six-year-old boy, Azka, on Wednesday evening, which was described as a “miracle” after he survived more than two days in the rubble without food or water.
“The mother was very hopeful. Azka survived, while Cika didn’t. That’s what makes me sad,” rescuer Kolibu said.
Before Cika was found, authorities said hammering rain and potentially deadly aftershocks were hampering rescue efforts.
Henri Alfiandi, head of the national search and rescue agency, said 17 bodies were recovered on Friday despite the challenges.
“The problems are the unstable soil, the thickness of the landslide pile aggravated by continuous rain, and the concerns of aftershocks,” he told broadcaster Kompas TV.
Many of those killed in the quake were children, some in classes at school, according to officials.
More than 2,000 people were injured and 56,000 houses were damaged in the quake.
More than 62,000 people were forced to evacuate to at least 110 shelters around the Cianjur area, Suharyanto said, leaving many homeless without adequate supplies.
Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.