Indonesian quake toll at 63, dozens still missing

September 4, 2009 4:21:04 AM PDT
Indonesian rescue workers pulled several bodies from the rubble of a giant landslide Friday, lifting the death toll from a powerful earthquake to 63. Dozens more people were still missing, feared dead. Hopes of finding possible survivors were fading, three days after the quake, officials said.

The number of houses recorded as destroyed or damaged in Wednesday's magnitude 7.0 temblor, which was centered off the southern coast of the main island of Java, jumped to more than 87,000, Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said.

Around 28,000 people were in need of shelter, he said. Aid agencies were distributing tents, blankets and basic provisions, but some rural areas were difficult to reach.

Two dozen bodies have been recovered from Cikangkareng village, in the badly hit district of Cianjur, where 33 people were still missing after 10 houses and a mosque were buried under tons of rock and mud.

"Their parents are still waiting at the scene, hoping we will find the bodies," rescue worker Agus Sobari said.

Other victims have been found under collapsed houses and debris in towns and cities across West Java province. More than 400 people were injured and 125 people were hospitalized with broken bones and cuts, the disaster agency said on its Web site.

The search for survivors would last a week, Kardono said, but the likelihood of finding anyone alive was becoming increasingly slim.

"We cannot conclude they have died until emergency response efforts are over," Kardono said.

Residents in Cikangkareng have described how after the quake struck Wednesday afternoon there was a deafening roar as giant boulders tumbled down the mountainside. Among the dead and missing are at least 13 children who had been playing video games.

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, half of them in Aceh province.

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