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Asia-pacific

Sumatra quake deaths surge over 1,000

Video by Oliver FARRY

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-10-02

The death toll from the major earthquake in Indonesia has risen to at least 1,100 and is likely to worsen, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said Thursday. Many districts remain inaccessible to emergency services.

Indonesian rescue teams scrambled to reach survivors trapped under rubble Thursday after a series of powerful earthquakes devastated the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province, killing more than 1,100 people according to the UN's humanitarian chief John Holmes.


“Aid is starting to flow and the government is acting quite swiftly. Already 10 million dollars have been allocated for emergency relief,” said Solenn Honorine, an RFI correspondent for FRANCE 24 in Jakarta.

Indonesian officials announced 770 confirmed deaths earlier in the day. The 7.6-magnitude tremor hit barely an hour before the sunset, cutting most power lines and communications in the city of one million inhabitants and hampering rescue efforts in the first crucial hours.

On Thursday, another powerful quake struck 225 kilometres south-east of the devastated area, sending panic-stricken residents fleeing.

Rustam Pakaya, the head of health ministry’s crisis centre, told AFP news agency that major buildings had collapsed, including a city hospital, and that thousands of people were trapped under the rubble.

“The damage is very widespread. The biggest marketplace of Padang has collapsed. The university has broken down, and several hotels have also collapsed,” said Honorine.

The chief social welfare minister, Aburizal Bakrie, told the Reuters news agency that the damage could be similar to that caused by a 2006 quake in the central Java city of Yogyakarta that killed 5,000 people and damaged 150,000 homes.

“This earthquake occurred near densely populated areas, near a city, whereas in Indonesia catastrophes tend to happen in rural areas where it’s usually easier to get help – so it could well be a tricky rescue effort,” said Honorine.

Padang 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, triggering regular tremors and sometimes quakes. Geologists have long warned Padang may one day be destroyed by a huge earthquake because of its location.

Date created : 2009-10-01

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