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. Death And Destruction After Powerful Indonesia Quake

Villagers ask for donation from motorists along a cracked road at Singkarak village in Solok, 07 March 2007. At least 82 people have been killed and scores injured in a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that rocked Indonesia's Sumatra island, officials said. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) March 06, 2007
Panic-stricken people on Indonesia's Sumatra island ran from homes, hospitals and schools as a strong earthquake struck Tuesday, killing at least 82 and destroying buildings, trapping many under rubble. Television images showed collapsed homes and offices, with others still standing but scarred by giant cracks and listing precipitously.

The injured crowded under tents set up on hospital grounds, lying on mats and fanning themselves against the heat. Hospitals in the disaster zone were already working at full capacity, rescue coordinators said.

The 6.3-magnitude quake struck at 10:49 am (0349 GMT), the US Geological Survey said, 49 kilometres (30 miles) northeast of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra. An almost equally strong aftershock appeared to hit later.

Tanah Datar, Solok and Padang were among the worst hit areas in Sumatra.

At least 82 people were killed by the quake, said a spokesman for the UN children's agency, UNICEF.

Sudi Silalahi, a spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had earlier said at least 70 people were reported dead and scores injured.

The toll could rise as officials said communication was cut off close to the epicentre of quake, leaving no immediate way of knowing the extent of the damage there. Hundreds of police were rushing to the area.

Solok's mayor said several houses had collapsed and that a school had burned to the ground, adding that dozens of people were injured, some with open, bleeding wounds.

A police chief said there were reports of many trapped under rubble in the area.

Nanda Febrian, a student in Padang, told AFP her university building shook and she rushed to open ground with her friends.

"We really felt the quake, the biggest two times -- all students panicked and ran from the third floor," she said.

Some families who escaped injury huddled together in the open, television pictures showed.

They watched cars and bikes fill nearby roads as people rushed for higher ground, fearing a tsunami, not realising the quake was under ground.

The quake also shook skyscrapers in nearby Singapore, sending people fleeing to the streets, and was felt in Malaysia too.

Indonesia, an archipelago nation of some 17,000 islands, sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where continental plates meet -- and where earthquakes are a regular and often deadly occurrence.

Indonesia was the nation worst hit by the earthquake-triggered Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, which killed some 168,000 people in Aceh province on the northern tip of Sumatra.

Some 5,800 people were killed and 33,000 others injured in a massive quake that rocked Java island in May last year. Two months later, another quake on Java killed more than 600.

earlier related report
Powerful Indonesia quake kills at least 71
Padang (AFP) March 6 - A powerful earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Tuesday, killing at least 71 people, flattening buildings and sparking panic in the streets of Malaysia and Singapore.

Officials said the death toll was expected to rise in the latest catastrophe to hit the beleaguered nation, and hospitals were quickly overwhelmed with the rush of wounded. Many people were feared to be trapped under rubble.

Communication was cut off with much of the area close to the epicentre of the 6.3-magnitude quake, so there was no immediate way of knowing the extent of the damage there, they said.

But elsewhere doctors were forced to set up shop outdoors, running drips for the injured and working in hastily erected tents. Television showed staff at the main hospital in Padang city scrambling in chaos to cope with the wounded.

"There are 71 people dead and 47 people badly injured," Suryadi, a rescue coordinator on Sumatra, told AFP.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono may visit the disaster site and had ordered police, military, ministers and authorities to coordinate the relief effort, a spokesman said.

An official with the UN children's agency UNICEF in Geneva said at least 82 people were believed dead, but that figure could not immediately be confirmed.

Officials in Indonesia said many people had broken bones and open wounds, and that some had suffered head injuries.

"There are hundreds of victims," the mayor of Solok, a rice-farming area of about 50,000 people close to the epicentre, told ElShinta radio.

"We have asked for medical help," said the mayor, Samsurahim, who goes by one name. "Our facilities here are insufficient."

The quake struck at 10:49 am (0349 GMT), the US Geological Survey said, 49 kilometres (30 miles) northeast of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra.

Many people were trapped in collapsed buildings and there was no official information about the situation at the quake's epicentre because phone lines were down, Utjin Sudiana, West Sumatra's police chief, told AFP.

"The epicentre is in Batusangkar but communication is disconnected from there so we don't know what the damage is," he said. The town is about 50 kilometres from Padang.

At least one aftershock almost as strong as the quake was felt later.

The devastating Asian tsunami in 2004 was set off by a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, and Tuesday's quake sparked a panic on the Indonesian island and across the region.

In Singapore, which is rarely hit by quakes, hundreds of people cleared out of their office skyscrapers and raced into the streets -- some of them weeping and screaming -- when the ground started to tremble.

"We grabbed our bags and just evacuated," office worker Nicholas Wong told local radio. "Everyone was panicking. One of my colleagues was crying because she had never felt such an effect before."

But there were no reports of any damage in the city-state or in Malaysia, which also felt the quake.

Indonesia, an archipelago of some 17,000 islands, sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where continental plates meet -- and where earthquakes are a regular and often deadly occurrence.

Indonesia was the nation worst hit by the earthquake-triggered Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, which killed some 168,000 people in Aceh province on the northern tip of Sumatra.

Some 5,800 people were killed and 33,000 others injured in a massive quake that rocked Java island in May last year. Two months later, another quake on Java killed more than 600.

earlier related report
Survivors Stunned By Power Of Indonesia Quake
Solok (AFP) Indonesia, March 7 - Relief operations swung into gear Wednesday a day after a powerful quake rocked the Indonesian island of Sumatra as a senior official revised the death toll down to 52. The force of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake, which was followed by an almost equally powerful aftershock, stunned villagers used to the tremors that often shake this mountainous region of West Sumatra.

Rescue officials earlier said the quake, which hit early Tuesday, killed 71 people and injured hundreds, many seriously.

A spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono revised that figure to 52, saying some of the dead had been counted twice, although the Antara state news agency cited an unconfirmed breakdown of fatalities adding up to 88.

"We have earthquakes now and then but nothing as strong as yesterday's. I have never experienced an earthquake that strong," said Emi Zurmiati, 42, her eyes reddened from crying.

Speaking in front of a crumbled home in Sumani village, one of the hardest hit areas of West Sumatra's Solok district, she said her mother and two nieces had been killed in the quake.

The girls died in a fire that swept through a primary school after a wall collapsed on it. Her mother was killed in a nearby alleyway.

Altogether nine people died in Sumani, five of them primary school pupils and the rest women hit in the alley by the same collapsing wall.

Zurmiati, who had been sweeping in front of her home when the quake struck, said the ground shook so strongly that she could not even stand.

"Even crouching, I was tossed right and left," she said.

The quake's epicentre was located 49 kilometres (30 miles) northeast of the West Sumatran capital Padang, according to the US Geological Survey, but was also felt in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.

"This time, it was not only very strong but also lasted a long time," said 75-year-old Nurbari, a grandmother sitting under a large plastic sheet strung between trees in front of her house in Tanah Garam, a village near Sumani.

"The last time there was such a strong earthquake, that crumpled buildings and left large cracks on the ground. I was still very young," Nurbari said.

In the hamlet of Sumagek, near Sumani, about 70 people spent the night in the open, fearful of returning home.

"Everyone, by habit, knows what to do in case of a quake," said Masri, a 60-year-old farmer. "Run out of buildings. But this time, it (the quake) was extraordinary, really extraordinary."

Suryadi, a rescue coordinator on Sumatra, said more than 1,000 houses had been completely destroyed and at least 2,500 damaged.

"The latest data we have received is 71 dead in seven districts and cities," he told AFP.

"We have not received reports of the total number of people injured, but we did receive reports that many people cannot be accommodated by the hospitals."

Suryadi said the evacuation efforts were still underway and emergency meals were being distributed, although there was a shortage of tents.

"Many people are staying in front of their damaged houses, with whatever they can use as shelter," he added.

Syafrizal, member of an emergency team in nearby Tanah Datar district, said search efforts there had been called off.

"Now we are concentrating on relief efforts, including providing medical services, distributing aid and helping the population clean up," he said.

But quake survivors criticised the government's relief push as too slow.

Ridah, from Tanah Garam, said she had yet to be helped.

"Nothing, nothing, nothing," she responded when asked what she had received, the walls of what was once her home crumbling behind her.

The Netherlands pledged two million dollars to buy immediate necessities, while Canada promised 250,000 Canadian dollars.

Indonesia, an archipelago of some 17,000 islands, sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where continental plates meet -- and where earthquakes are a regular and often deadly occurrence.

The devastating Asian tsunami in 2004 was set off by a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, killing some 168,000 people in Aceh province on its northern tip in a total of 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Thousands of people have fled areas near deadly landslides in Indonesia fearing heavy rain could trigger a new disaster, as the rescue operation intensified on Tuesday, officials said. Some 2,500 anxious villagers on Flores island, where landslides and flash floods on Saturday killed at least 36 people, had sought safe shelter away from their homes, relief worker Johny Erasmus told AFP by telephone.

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