30 September 2009

Indonesia quake 'traps thousands'

At least 13 people have been confirmed dead and thousands are feared trapped under rubble after a powerful earthquake flattened hundreds of homes on Indonesia's Sumatra island, officials said.

Rustam Pakaya, the head of the health ministry's disaster centre, said that a hospital in the coastal town of Padang was among the buildings that had been destroyed on Wednesday.

"Jamil hospital collapsed and thousands of people are trapped in the rubble of buildings," Pakaya said.

The 7.6-magnitude quake hit just off the coast of Padang in Western Sumatra province early in the morning.

Bridges were also destroyed and fires started, while some power and telecommunications links were cut, witnesses said.

"Many buildings are badly damaged, including hotels and mosques,'' Wandono, an official at the Meteorology and Geophysic Agency in the capital, Jakarta, said.

Metro Television reported the roof of Padang airport had collapsed.

The earthquake also triggered a landslide which cut off land access to the town.

Pakaya said a field hospital was being prepared to assist the injured and medical teams were on their way from neighbouring provinces.

'Very strong'

"The earthquake was very strong," Kasmiati, who lives on the coast near to the epicentre, told The Associated Press news agency.

"People ran to high ground. Houses and buildings were badly damaged," she said. "I was outside, so I am safe, but my children at home were injured."

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued regional tsunami warning following the earthquake, but the warning was cancelled soon afterwards.

The Indonesian earthquake came just hours after a series of tsunamis caused death and devastation on the Pacific island nations of American Samoa and Western Samoa.

Padang, the capital of Indonesia's West Sumatra province, sits on one of the world's most active fault lines along the "Ring of Fire", where the Indo-Australia plate grinds against the Eurasia plate, creating regular tremors and sometimes earthquakes.

The low-lying city of about 900,000 people was badly hit by an 8.4 magnitude quake in September 2007, when dozens of people died and several large buildings collapsed.

In 2004, a 9.15 magnitude earthquake, with its epicentre roughly 600km northwest of Padang, caused a tsunami that killed 232,000 people in Indonesia's Aceh province, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, and other countries across the Indian Ocean.

Source: Al-Jazeera


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