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Indonesia Earthquake Death Toll Reaches 529

Indonesia Earthquake Death Toll Reaches 529

USA Today

October 01, 2009

PADANG, Indonesia (AP) — A second powerful earthquake rocked western Indonesia on Thursday as rescuers struggled to reach survivors of the previous day’s quake, which killed more than 500 people and left thousands trapped under collapsed buildings.

The death toll from Wednesday’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake off Sumatra island was expected to rise as rescuers dig through the rubble, sometimes by hand, in heavily populated cities. The latest, 6.8-magnitude quake damaged hundreds of additional buildings, and communications remained cut in some areas.

“Let’s not underestimate (the disaster). Let’s be prepared for the worst. We will do everything we can to help the victims,” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in Jakarta before flying to Padang.

A total of 529 people were confirmed dead and 440 were seriously injured, the Social Affairs Ministry’s crisis center said. It said 376 deaths occurred in Padang, a coastal city of 900,000 and capital of West Sumatra province. The rest were in four surrounding districts.

Thousands were believed trapped, said Rustam Pakaya, head of the Health Ministry’s crisis center. A foot could be seen sticking from one pile of rubble.

The president ordered the military to deploy all its crisis centers in Jakarta, West Sumatra and North Sumatra provinces and said the military will provide earth-moving equipment to clear the rubble.

Padang became the immediate focus of rescue efforts. At least 500 buildings in the city collapsed or were badly damaged in Wednesday evening’s quake, which also set off fires, said Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono.

Terrified residents who spent a restless night, many sleeping outdoors, were jolted by the new quake Thursday morning.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit about 150 miles south of Padang. It damaged 1,100 buildings, including mosques and homes, in Jambi, according to Mayor Hasfiah, who uses only one name like many Indonesians. He said there were no deaths but dozens of people were injured.

In Padang, collapsed or seriously damaged buildings included hospitals, mosques, a mall and a school. TVOne network footage showed heavy equipment breaking through layers of cement in search of more than 30 students it said were missing from the school, where they were taking after-school classes.

Parents of missing students stayed up all night, waiting for signs of life.

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