Sun, 23 Mar 2003

Residents fear aftershocks of Kuningan quake

Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Kuningan, West Java

More than 2,000 people in Kuningan regency, West Java, have been living in fear of possible aftershocks after an earthquake measuring a moderate 4.6 on the Richter scale shook the regency late on Friday and damaged about 800 houses and other buildings.

Residents of Cilimus and Pancalang, two districts which were worst hit, have taken shelter in temporary camps set up by the local administration and have taken all their belongings out of their houses.

Udin Marvel and Dede whose houses were badly damaged by the tremor, said they have been staying in two camps because they feared stronger aftershocks.

"No. No. We will continue to stay in this camp in the open field because we are still afraid of more quakes," Udin told The Jakarta Post when asked if he would go home soon.

Cilimus district head Much. Supratman said that so far he had recorded 440 houses and mosques and a junior high school building which were damaged by the earthquake.

"The villages of Caracas, Cilimus, Kaliaren, Sampora and Cibeureum were worst hit. All the people are camping outdoors," he said.

Eka Mulyana, a civil servant at the Pancalang district office, said that the earthquake damaged some 340 buildings in the district and many people were still being fearful of aftershocks so they do not want to go back home.

"Like Cilimus, most residents are staying in open fields and temporary makeshift shelters established by the local administration," he said.

Cibeureum village head Miskum said many people would not go back to their houses because they had felt several aftershocks on Friday night and early on Saturday.

Kuningan regent Arifin Setiamiharja who made a field tour to the quake location, said the local administration would supply food relief to the two districts immediately.

The chief of the Mitigation and Vulcanology Directorate, Surono, said the earthquake measured 4.6 on the Richter scale and lasted for 20 seconds on Friday evening with the epicenter 33 kilometers below ground in the regency.

"The quake was caused by the increasing activity of the Caesar Veridis fault located between Kuningan and Majalengka," he said.

He said a 4.6 quake should not normally be strong enough to damage so many buildings, but that the poor quality of construction throughout the area had made the buildings and homes too weak to withstand it.

The regency was last shaken by a similar earthquake in 1935.