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.
AT THE SCENE
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.
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."
PADANG: KEY FACTS
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
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.
Witnesses to the first quake said residents ran out of buildings in Padang - which has a population of 900,000 - and surrounding cities.
MAJOR INDONESIAN QUAKES
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."