Indonesia quake deaths pass 750

Thursday, October 1, 2009

At least 770 people are now known to have died in a powerful quake that struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Wednesday, the government says.
Rescuers are working into the night in a race to find survivors in the rubble of hundreds of collapsed buildings.
Almost 2,400 people have been injured, and the death toll is expected to rise further, officials say.
The 7.6-magnitude quake struck close to the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province.
The earthquake brought down hospitals, schools and shopping malls, cut power lines and triggered landslides.

Karishma Vaswani, BBC News, Padang
We have seen dozens of homes and buildings damaged as we have made our way into Padang, one of the areas believed worst affected by the powerful earthquake.
There are huge cracks in the concrete roads here, a few feet wide, showing the full force of the tremors. Rescue officials have told us some of the worst damage is in the heart of the city where they say a shopping mall has collapsed. At Padang airport scores of families from across the country arrived this morning looking for their loved ones.
Phone lines in the area are still down so communication is a challenge, but many in Padang have ventured out, driving around the city in motorcycles and in cars to assess the extent of the damage.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited some of the worst-hit areas.
"I ask rescue workers to continue working in teams with clear goals to keep looking for survivors...," he said.
"This is a natural disaster, so let us remain strong in dealing with it."
The social affairs and health ministries gave the latest confirmed death toll of 770.
But earlier Rustam Pakaya, head of the health ministry's disaster centre in Jakarta, predicted that thousands had died.
A second quake of 6.8 struck close to Padang at 0852 local time (0152 GMT) on Thursday but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
Heavy machinery
The first earthquake struck at 1716 local time (1016 GMT) on Wednesday, some 85km (55 miles) under the sea, north-west of Padang, the US Geological Survey said.
One of the worst disasters appeared to be the collapse of a school in Padang.

In pictures: Sumatra earthquake
Eyewitness: Sumatra earthquake
The Pacific 'Ring of Fire'
One mother, Andriana, told AFP news agency she had been at the school since the first quake occurred, hoping for news of her 14-year-old daughter.
"I haven't been home yet and keep praying to God my daughter is alive."
Police said nine children had been found alive but that eight bodies had also been pulled from the rubble so far.
Rescuers and medical workers are struggling to cope with the amount of destruction and the sheer number of victims.
Titi Moektijasih, of the UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told AFP that emergency efforts so far were insufficient.
"Compared to the extent of the damage, you see there should be more equipment, more people to do this."
David Lange, a doctor with Surfaid International, told the BBC one of the hospitals was "completely destroyed" and medical workers were struggling to cope.
"They are trying to operate in the parking lot, in a tent, in the mud."

Population of 900,000, capital of West Sumatra province
On coastal plain, surrounded by mountains inland
Lies on one of world's most active fault lines
Near major quake epicentres in March 2007 and April 2005
Profile: Padang
Bob McKerrow, Red Cross head of operations in Indonesia, told the BBC it had more than 400 personnel on the ground, including 50 doctors flown in on Thursday morning.
"But it's just such a vast area to be working in with such bad infrastructure," he said. "I mean the roads and bridges have all been damaged, so [there is] a challenge ahead of us."
The quake brought down telephone lines, severely affecting communications with the region and making it difficult to assess the scale of the damage. Power has now been restored to some parts of Padang.
Health ministry teams and Indonesian soldiers have arrived in the city to aid the search for survivors. A shortage of heavy machinery remains a problem.
Food, medicine and body bags have begun to arrive. Tents and blankets were also on their way to help the homeless, the health ministry said.
'Getting nasty'
Witnesses to the first quake said residents ran out of buildings in Padang - which has a population of 900,000 - and surrounding cities.

26 Dec 2004: Asian tsunami kills 170,000 in Indonesia alone
28 March 2005: About 1,300 killed after a magnitude 8.7 quake hits the coast of Sumatra
27 May 2006: Quake hits ancient city of Yogyakarta, killing 5,000
17 July 2006: A tsunami after a 7.7 magnitude quake in West Java province kills 550 people
30 Sept 2009: 7.6 magnitude quake near Sumatran city of Padang, thousands feared dead
1 Oct 2009: Second of two quakes near Padang, magnitude 6.8 - no damage or casualties reported
Animated guide: Earthquakes
An American in Padang, Greg Hunt, told Reuters this was the worst earthquake he had experienced.
"It's getting nasty in town. It's chaos. There's no fuel, people are looting. It's getting worse because people have no food, no money."
Australia is among the countries that have offered to send emergency assistance to Indonesia if needed.
Wednesday's quake was along the same fault line that spawned the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
That quake struck roughly 600km north-west of Padang.
Geologists have long warned that Padang could one day be completely destroyed by an earthquake because of its location.
Western Sumatra is a mainly rural area with dense tropical forest and several national parks. Many of its beaches are popular with surfers.
The earthquake struck nearly 12 hours after a powerful quake in the South Pacific that triggered a devastating tsunami but experts said the two events were unrelated.
"They were 10,000km (6,200 miles) apart," New Zealand seismologist Bill Fry told AFP news agency.
"You can get quakes that are close temporally and spatially as one transfers stress to another place against the fault, but that's not possible this far apart."


Tsunami video

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Tsunami video


Deadly tsunamis strike in Pacific

Tsunamis triggered by a strong quake in the South Pacific have killed at least 90 people across a number of islands.
At least 65 people were reported dead in Samoa, more than 20 in American Samoa and at least six in Tonga.
Samoan officials say whole villages have been destroyed while thousands of people are reported to have been made homeless in American Samoa.
An 8.3-magnitude quake struck at 1748 GMT on Tuesday, generating 15ft (4.5m) waves in some areas of the islands.
The Samoa islands comprise two separate entities - the nation of Samoa and American Samoa, a US territory. The total population is about 250,000.
The water was swirling like a spa pool outwards [towards] the rim of the lagoon and in a few seconds the water sunk
Ula Osasa-ManoEyewitness
How earthquakes happen
Animated guide: Tsunamis
In pictures: Samoan tsunami
A general tsunami warning was issued for the wider South Pacific region but was cancelled a few hours later.
The general manager of Samoa's National Health Service told the BBC that 65 people had died and 145 people were injured.
US President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in American Samoa, enabling federal funding to made available to help victims.
Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said he was shocked at the devastation.
"So much has gone. So many people are gone," he told the AAP news agency.
False alarm
"Some of the areas are only a few feet above sea level, so you can imagine the devastation," said Eni Faleomavaega, who represents American Samoa in the US.
"It caused severe damage to property, there are cars floating everywhere."

High waves damaged property and swept cars out to sea
Mr Faleomavaega told the BBC the waves had "literally wiped out all the low-lying areas in the Samoan islands".
He said the tsunami had hit within minutes of the quake, leaving people with no time to escape.
"There would have been no warning system capable of giving adequate warning to the people," he said.
Samoa's Deputy PM Misa Telefoni told Australia's AAP news agency that "the ocean went out within five minutes".
"With the location and the intensity... I don't know if anything better could have been done."
Officials at the Samoa Meteorology Division said many of those who died were killed by a second wave after they went to gather fish that had been washed up after the first.
Sirens reportedly blared out across the Samoan capital, Apia, again late on Tuesday but the warning was thought to be a false alarm.

Dr Lemalu Fiu, at a hospital in Apia, said the number of casualties was expected to rise as people arrived from coastal areas.
Mr Telefoni said there were fears the major tourism areas on the west side of Upolu island had been badly hit.
"We've had a pretty grim picture painted of all that coast," he said.
Australia said one of its citizens was feared dead with six missing. Both Australia and New Zealand are preparing to send emergency aid.
Samoan officials say it could take a week before the full extent of the damage is known.
A government official in Tonga said at least six people had been killed and four more were missing.
Beaches gone
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said the quake struck at a depth of 33km (20 miles), some 190km (120 miles) from Apia in Samoa.
American Samoa governor Togiola Tulafono on the 'four waves'
Radio New Zealand quoted Samoan residents as saying that villages were inundated and homes and cars swept away.
Graeme Ansell, a New Zealander near Apia, told the radio station the beach village of Sau Sau Beach Fale had been "wiped out".
"There's not a building standing. We've all clambered up hills, and one of our party has a broken leg. There will be people in a great lot of need around here," he said.
Witnesses have reported scenes of destruction.
"It's horrible... The village is gone and my once beautiful beachfront villa has now been submerged in water.

after fleeing the area on a small fishing boat with his wife and son.


Wildfire makes menacing advance near Los Angeles

Monday, August 31, 2009

LOS ANGELES – A deadly wildfire that has blackened a wide swath of tinder-dry forest around Los Angeles made another menacing advance Monday, surging toward thousands of suburban homes and a vital mountaintop broadcasting complex.

Fire crews battling the blaze in the Angeles National Forest tried desperately to beat back the flames and prayed for weather conditions to ease. The fire was the largest of at least eight burning across California after days of triple-digit temperatures and low humidity.
The flames scorched 134 square miles of brush and threatened 12,000 homes, but the lack of wind kept them from driving explosively into the hearts of the dense suburbs northeast of Los Angeles.
"It's burning everywhere," U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Dianne Cahir said. "When it gets into canyons that haven't burned in numerous years, it takes off. If you have any insight into the good Lord upstairs, put in a request."
Columns of smoke billowed high into the air before dispersing into a gauzy white haze that burned eyes and prompted warnings of unhealthy air throughout the Los Angeles area.
Fire crews set backfires and sprayed fire retardant at Mount Wilson, home to at least 20 television transmission towers, radio and cell phone antennas, and the century-old Mount Wilson Observatory. The observatory also houses two giant telescopes and several multimillion-dollar university programs. It is both a historic landmark and a thriving modern center for astronomy.
The fire about a half-mile away was expected to reach the mountaintop eventually, said Los Angeles County fire Capt. Mark Whaling. If the flames hit the mountain, cell phone service and TV and radio transmissions would be disrupted, but the extent was unclear.
The blaze killed two firefighters, destroyed at least 21 homes and forced thousands of evacuations. The firefighters died when their truck drove off the side of a road with flames all around them.
"It's the worst roller coaster of my life, and I hate roller coasters," said Adi Ellad, who lost his home in Big Tujunga Canyon over the weekend. "One second I'm crying, one second I'm guilty, the next moment I'm angry, and then I just want to drink tequila and forget."
Ellad left behind a family heirloom Persian rug and a photo album he put together after his father died. "I'm going to have to figure out a new philosophy: how to live without loving stuff," he said.
The blaze in the Los Angeles foothills is the biggest but not most destructive of California's wildfires. Northeast of Sacramento, a fire destroyed 60 structures over the weekend, many of them homes in the town of Auburn.
The 275-acre blaze was 50 percent contained Monday morning. It wiped out an entire cul-de-sac, leaving only smoldering ruins, a handful of chimneys and burned cars. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger planned to tour the area Monday morning.
East of Los Angeles, a 900-acre fire threatened 2,000 homes and forced the evacuation of a scenic community of apple orchards in an oak-studded area of San Bernardino County. Brush in the area had not burned for a century, fire officials said. Flames burning like huge candles erupted between rocky slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains and the neat farmhouses below.
With highs expected to hit 90 to 100 degrees and humidity remaining low, the National Weather Service extended a weekend warning of extreme fire conditions in the central and Southern California mountains.
Winds were light, which prevented the flames from roaring at furious speed into towns. In 2003, a wind-whipped blaze tore through neighborhoods in San Diego County, killing 15 people and destroying more than 2,400 homes.
Overall, more than 2,500 firefighters were on the line. More than 20 helicopters and air tankers were preparing to dump water and retardant over the flames. Two Canadian Super Scoopers, giant craft that can pull thousands of gallons of water from lakes and reservoirs, were expected to join the fight later in the day.
In La Crescenta, where the San Gabriel Mountains descend steeply into the bedroom suburb a dozen miles from downtown Los Angeles, 57-year-old Mary Wilson was experiencing her first wildfire after nine years of living in a canyon.
Her family was evacuated twice in the past five days, she said.
"We saw the flames. My daughter got really scared," she said. But she was philosophical: "You have to surrender to the natural forces when you choose to live up here. It's about nature doing its thing."
Also in La Crescenta, dispatchers overnight activated a "reverse 911" system that sent a recorded evacuation warning to people, but it turned out to be a mistake.
Whaling, the L.A. County fire captain, says the message applied to only a small number of residents closest to the fire but instead a large number got the sleep-shattering calls. He said he does not know how many people were involved in the call.
"They pushed the wrong button," he said.
Terry Crews, an actor promoting the new movie "Gamer" on KTLA-TV, talked about being forced to flee two days ago from his home in Altadena, in the foothills above Pasadena. He saw 40-foot flames, grabbed his dog and fled.
"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "I'm from Michigan. I'm used to tornadoes ... but to see this thing, you feel helpless."
"This is like 'The Ten Commandments,'" he said, referring to the movie. "You go, 'holy God, the end of the world.'"
The two Los Angeles County firefighters who were killed Sunday died on the blaze's northwestern front when their truck crashed on Mount Gleason near Acton.
The victims were fire Capt. Tedmund Hall, 47, of San Bernardino County, and firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones, 35, of Palmdale. Hall was a 26-year veteran, and Quinones had been a county firefighter for eight years.
An animal sanctuary called the Roar Foundation Shambala Preserve, six miles east of Acton, was in the mandatory evacuation zone, but fire officials decided removing the animals would be "a logistical nightmare," said Chris Gallucci, vice president of operations.
"We have 64 big cats, leopards, lions, tigers, cougars. ... The animals are just walking around, not being affected by this at all," Gallucci said. "But if we panic, they panic. But we are not in panic mode yet."


US 'needs fresh Afghan strategy'

A top US general in Afghanistan has called for a revised military strategy, suggesting the current one is failing.

In a strategic assessment, Gen Stanley McChrystal said that, while the Afghan situation was serious, success was still achievable.

The report has not yet been published, but sources say Gen McChrystal sees protecting the Afghan people against the Taliban as the top priority.

The report does not carry a direct call for increasing troop numbers.


'Major win' for Japan opposition

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is set for a massive election victory, exit polls suggest.
The DPJ has won 300 seats in the 480-seat lower house, ending 50 years of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), NHK TV says.
The DPJ says it will shift the focus of government from supporting corporations to helping consumers and workers.

Prime Minister Taro Aso has said he will resign as head of the LDP, taking responsibility for the defeat.
Japan is suffering record unemployment and its economy is struggling to emerge from a bruising recession.

Analysts say voters blame the conservative LDP for the current economic malaise - and are angry enough to opt for change.
Reform bureaucracy

The exit polls suggest a stunning reversal of fortune for Japan's political parties, reducing the LDP to a rump in parliament, correspondents say.
Mr Aso's party has governed Japan for all but 11 months since 1955.

Official results are expected early on Monday, but a senior LDP official acknowledged that the party was heading for a "historic defeat".
"The predictions by the media were shocking. We had doubts, but now I think they are becoming a reality," Yoshihide Suga, deputy chairman of the LDP's election strategy council, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
The DPJ leader, Yukio Hatoyama, has promised to boost welfare, reform the bureaucracy, and seek a more balanced relationship with the United States.
Mr Hatoyama is the wealthy grandson of the founder of Bridgestone tyres, whose other grandfather was a former LDP prime minister.
'Overwhelming majority'
Turnout in Sunday's election was reportedly just under 50%, slightly down from 2005 when elections saw the charismatic Junichiro Koizumi's LDP elected with a significant majority.

Alastair Leithead, BBC News, Tokyo
It's a massive swing. What the opposition can do now they are coming into power, and untested, is deal with the serious problem revolving around the economy and the recession.
Unemployment is at the highest level it ever has been and by the end of next year Japan will no longer be the second biggest economy in the world - that will be China.
Almost a third of the people here will be pensioners and therefore there will be fewer taxes coming in, more money going out.
It's a very difficult position that Japan is in. People have voted out a party that was in power almost without break for 50 years.
They are now looking to a new and inexperienced government to try and deal with some difficult challenges.
Japanese broadcaster NHK announced its exit polls moments after voting ended at 2000 (1100 GMT), saying they showed a major power shift in Japan.
"Our exit polls show the main opposition Democratic Party will seize more than 300 seats, way more than a majority in the lower house," said the newsreader.
"That signals a defeat for the governing coalition."
The LDP had 303 seats in the outgoing parliament, compared to the DPJ's 112. The projections were based on exit polls of roughly 400,000 voters.
If the DPJ were to gain such a landslide majority, it could establish a new cabinet within the next few weeks.
Voter anger
As voting closed on Sunday night, officials said turnout had been high, despite a combination of typhoon-triggered rainfall around Tokyo and a government warning that a swine flu epidemic was under way.
National broadcaster NHK: DPJ 298-329 seats; LDP 84-131
Private network TV Asahi: DPJ 315 seats
Tokyo Broadcasting System: DPJ 321 seats
Nippon Television: DPJ 324
Outgoing 480-seat lower house of parliament: LDP 303; DPJ 112
The DPJ already controls Japan's upper house with the support of smaller parties including the Social Democrats.
It won control of the house in July 2007, amid voters' anger at a series of scandals and the loss of millions of pension payment records.
Correspondents say voters' desire for change after so many years under the LDP was a crucial factor.
Tokyo University political science professor Takashi Mikuriya told Japanese media the election was "more about emotions than policies".


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