Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hundred die in Indonesia quake

Hundred die in Indonesia quake

A POWERFUL earthquake has rocked western Indonesia, killing 100-200 people and trapping thousands under collapsed buildings – including two hospitals – and triggering landslides.
The death toll is expected to climb sharply after the magnitude 7.6 quake struck at 5:15pm local time yesterday, just off the coast of Padang city on the island of Sumatra.

When the quake struck, the ground was shaking so hard that people had to sit down in the streets to avoid falling over. Children screamed as residents tried to put out fires started in the quake. Thousands fled the coast, fearing a tsunami.

It came a day after a quake in the South Pacific hurled a massive tsunami at the shores of Samoa and American Samoa.

The epicentre of the earthquake off Indonesia was several thousand miles to the west. A tsunami warning for countries around the Indian Ocean was issued, and panicked residents fled to higher ground fearing giant waves. The warning was lifted about an hour later.

Initial reports said 75 people died, but the real number is "definitely higher than that", vice-president Jusuf Kalla said in the capital, Jakarta. "It's hard to tell because there is heavy rain and a blackout." The figure soon hit at least 100 confirmed dead.

Rustam Pakaya, head of the health ministry's crisis centre, said: "Thousands of people are trapped under the collapsed houses." A field hospital was being readied and medical teams were on their way from neighbouring provinces. An official at the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency in Jakarta said: "Many buildings are badly damaged, including hotels and mosques."

Footage from Padang showed flattened buildings, one with a foot sticking out from beneath the debris.

"The earthquake was very strong," said Kasmiati, who lives on the coast near to the epicentre. "People ran to high ground. Houses and buildings were badly damaged. I was outside, so I am safe, but my children at home were injured…" At that point, her mobile phone went dead. Reports said landslides had cut all roads to Padang. Power was also hit.

"I want to know what happened to my sister and her husband," said Fitra Jaya, who owns a house in Padang and was in Jakarta when the quake struck. "I tried to call my family there, but I could not reach anyone at all."

• A 6.3 quake struck in southeastern Peru last night, near Bolivia's capital of La Paz, the US Geological Survey reported. It said the quake, fairly deep at 160.3 miles, occurred about 100 miles north-west of La Paz. There were no immediate reports of injuries.


YESTERDAY'S earthquake was along the same fault line that produced the massive 2004 Asian tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Here, the India plate, which is drifting northwards at a rate of 6cm per year, slides under the Burma plate, creating a fault line where compressed energy builds up.

On 26 December 2004, the sudden release of this energy ripped open the ocean floor for 1,600km northwards from near Aceh, the northernmost province of Sumatra.

The ensuing earthquake, reaching a magnitude of 9.1 to 9.3 and lasting for eight to ten minutes, was one of the largest ever recorded.

Indonesia's health minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, told MetroTV that yesterday's earthquake caused a mall and two hospitals to collapse in Padang, a low-lying city in Western Sumatra with a population of about 900,000. Geologists had earlier warned that the city was vulnerable.

"This is a high-scale disaster, more powerful than the earthquake in Yogyakarta in 2006 when more than 3,000 died," the minister said, referring to a major city on the main island of Java.

Padang has been badly hit before, by an 8.4 magnitude quake in September 2007, when dozens of people died and several large buildings collapsed.

The full article contains 657 words and appears in The Scotsman newspaper.
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