Indonesia quake toll rises to 467


Jakarta : At least 467 people have been killed and 423 injured following the powerful quake that struck Indonesia’s West Sumatra province, the Social Affairs Ministry said Thursday.

Support TwoCircles

The deaths occurred in five districts of West Sumatra hit hardest by Wednesday’s magnitude-7.6 quake, said Tugio Basri, an official at the ministry’s coordination post. The provincial capital Padang suffered the worst casualties, he added.

The National Disaster Management Agency said thousands of people were still trapped under collapsed buildings.

Earlier, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said the death toll could exceed 1,000.

Another 7.0-magnitude earthquake jolted the adjacent Jambi province, about 225 kilometres south-east of West Sumatra’s capital Padang, on Thursday morning, but there were no immediate reports of casualties, officials said.

Supari added that the damage could be worse than an earthquake in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta in 2006, when more than 5,800 people were killed and more than 150,000 buildings destroyed or damaged.

Officials said Wednesday’s quake had also displaced thousands of people and damaged key infrastructure, including telecommunications, roads, bridges and water supply systems.

Thursday’s 7.0-magnitude quake in Jambi province stretched the region’s disaster-relief capacity.

“There was panic, but yesterday’s quake was felt stronger here,” said Romi Suwanto, an official in Kerinci district, near the epicentre of Thursday’s quake.

Television footage from the city showed scenes of devastation, with hundreds of buildings, shops and homes flattened. One shot showed a buried victim’s foot sticking out from the rubble.

TV One showed rescuers using a mechanical excavator to remove debris at a school where locals claimed up to 40 students were still trapped. Seven people were rescued from the building and four found dead, the channel said.

“I will be waiting until they find my daughter,” a mother whose 13-year-old was believed trapped under the rubble told TV One, weeping and looking distraught.

Dadang Hanidal, head of the regional disaster coordinating agency, was quoted by the Kompas daily as saying that up to 200 guests remained trapped under rubble of the collapsed Hotel Ambacang in Padang.

A lack of equipment may slow rescue efforts, he said.

Survivors spent the night outdoors in the dark with electric power cut off. Rescue efforts have been hampered by the disruption of telecommunication lines, while roads into the city were reported blocked by landslides.

Six government ministers flew Thursday to Padang, and two Hercules C-130 military cargo aircraft departed from Jakarta carrying doctors and relief supplies such as tents, medicines and food.

Rustam Pakaya, head of the health ministry’s crisis centre, said a medical team has been dispatched to West Sumatra while a field hospital had been set up as hundreds of people suffered serious injuries.

Padang has been cut off as roads linking the West Sumatra capital with other cities were blocked by landslides following the quake, officials said.

The districts of Padang Pariaman and Sungai Giringging are among the hardest-hit regions, with hundreds of homes collapsed, officials said.

Wednesday’s quake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, struck at 1016 GMT off the western coast of Sumatra. A 6.2 magnitude aftershock followed 22 minutes later.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, the edge of a tectonic plate prone to seismic upheaval.

A major earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck in December 2004, leaving more than 170,000 people dead or missing in Indonesia’s Aceh province and 500,000 people homeless.

Wednesday’s quake occurred along the same fault line.

Geologists have said that Padang, a low-lying city of 900,000 people, risks being swallowed by a tsunami in the event of an earthquake similar in magnitude to the one that triggered the 2004 giant wave.