Indonesian quake leaves 44 dead

September 3, 2009 7:55:01 AM PDT
A disaster management official says the earthquake that rocked Indonesia has killed at least 44 people and left dozens missing. Disaster management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said Thursday that 110 people have been hospitalized after the 7.0 magnitude quake. Ten were in critical condition.

The temblor caused heavy damage Wednesday in the West Java, where 700 buildings were severely damaged or toppled.

A village in Cianjur district was hit by a landslide, burying dozens alive. At least 10 bodies were recovered and rescue efforts are ongoing.

The prolonged shaking was felt hundreds of miles (kilometers) away on neighboring Bali island. In the capital, Jakarta, thousands of panicked office workers flooded onto the streets, some of the screaming.

Earlier Wednesday

Hospitals quickly filled with more than 300 people injured when the magnitude 7.0 quake struck off the southern coast of the main island of Java, where most of Indonesia's 235 million people live. With dozens reported missing, the death toll was expected to rise.

"The earthquake was shaking everything in my house very strongly for almost a minute," said Heni Maryani, a resident in the town of Sukabumi. "I grabbed my children and ran out, I saw people were in panic, women were screaming and children were crying."

Disaster officials said hundreds of homes and buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged in three districts in densely populated West Java. The worst report of fatalities was from a village in Cianjur district, where 10 bodies were recovered from a landslide. About 30 people were still believed trapped under rocks and dirt, the official Antara news agency reported.

"Most of them are housewives and children who were playing PlayStation in a buried house," Entang Kurniawan, another resident, told broadcaster TVOne.

A tsunami warning was issued after the quake struck at 2:55 p.m. (0755 GMT, 3:55 a.m. EDT), but revoked an hour later.

Muharaham Ardan, a university lecturer in the town of Tasikmalaya, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) from the epicenter, said it was the biggest quake he had ever felt.

"We all ran out in panic, we didn't even put our sandals on," he said. "The neighbors were shouting: 'Get out of the house! Get out of the house!"'

Social Affairs Ministry official Mardi said more than 700 houses and buildings were badly damaged and at least 33 people had died. The disaster management agency reported deaths in the districts of Cianjur, Tasikmalaya and Sukabumi in West Java.

Fifi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said he saw at least 20 houses collapse in his village of Pameungpek. Some villagers were slightly injured, but all his family members were safe.

"Residents here are still staying outside. We are afraid of aftershocks," he said.

The quake was felt over roughly half of Java island. In the capital, Jakarta, 120 miles (190 kilometers) from the epicenter, panicked office workers ran onto the streets.

Health Ministry Crisis Center chief Rustam Pakaya said at least 27 people were admitted to hospital in Jakarta and the number of injured was rising. One person died in the capital, he said, without providing details.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the underwater quake was magnitude 7.0 at a depth of about 30 miles (50 kilometers).

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was powerful enough to cause a local tsunami, but there were no immediate reports of high waves. "Sea level readings indicate a significant tsunami was not generated," the center later said in a statement retracting the alert.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago, straddles continental plates and is prone to seismic activity along what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. A huge quake off western Indonesia caused a powerful tsunami in December 2004 that killed about 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

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