Soldiers and volunteers carry the
quake victims in Sumatra, Indonesia
A powerful earthquake that struck western Indonesia trapped
thousands of people under collapsed buildings — including hospitals,
a hotel and a classroom, officials said.
At least 200 bodies were found in one coastal city and the toll was
expected to be far higher.
The temblor Wednesday started fires, severed roads and cut off power
and communications to Padang, a coastal city of 900,000 on Sumatra
Thousands fled in panic, fearing a tsunami. It was felt hundreds of
miles (kilometers) away in Malaysia and Singapore, causing buildings
there to sway.
Rescue teams struggled on Thursday to
find scores of people trapped under debris and survivors pleaded for
aid after a powerful quake hit the Indonesian city of Padang,
possibly killing thousands.
The 7.6 magnitude quake struck the
bustling port city of 900,000 people on Wednesday, toppling hundreds
of buildings. Telephone connections were patchy, making it hard for
officials to work out the extent of destruction and loss of life.
"I have been through quakes here
before and this was the worst. There is blood everywhere, people
with their limbs cut off. We saw buildings collapsed, people dying,"
said American Greg Hunt, 38, who was at Padang airport.
Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari
told reporters at an airport in Jakarta before leaving for Padang
that the number of dead could be numbered in the thousands, given
the widespread damage. A worker compiling disaster data at the
social ministry put the number killed of confirmed deaths at 529.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
told reporters the country could coordinate the relief efforts but
welcomed help from abroad.
A 6.6 magnitude quake hit another part
of Sumatra island on Thursday, causing fresh panic. The second
quake's epicentre -- inland and further to the southeast -- was 154
km (96 miles) northwest of Bengkulu, the U.S. Geological Survey
At least 500 buildings in Padang collapsed or were badly damaged,
said Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono, adding
that 200 bodies had been pulled from the rubble there.
The extent of damage in surrounding areas was still unclear due to
"I was studying math with my
friends when suddenly a powerful earthquake destroyed everything
around me," an unidentified boy told the TVOne broadcaster.
He escaped out of the top floor just
as the three-story structure, used for after-school classes,
Officials in Padang said about 500
houses had caved in and witnesses said many buildings had collapsed
after Wednesday's quake.
Priyadi Kardono, a spokesman for
Indonesia's disaster management agency, said the effects of
Wednesday's quake "could be as big as the Yogyakarta quake",
referring to a 2006 disaster that killed more than 5,000 people and
damaged or destroyed 150,000 homes.
Indonesia, a poor, sprawling nation with limited resources, was
cobbling together an emergency aid response, and the government was
preparing for the possibility of thousands of deaths.
Padang's mayor appealed for assistance on Indonesian radio station
"We are overwhelmed with victims and lack of clean water,
electricity and telecommunications," Mayor Fauzi Bahar said.
"We really need help.
We call on people to come to Padang to evacuate bodies and help the
"Hundreds of people were trapped under collapsed buildings in Padang
alone, including a four-star hotel, he said.
Other collapsed or seriously damaged buildings included hospitals,
mosques, a school and a mall.