Thousands Feared Dead as Earthquake Hits Sumatra
THOUSANDS of people were feared killed by a massive earthquake that flattened homes in Sumatra yesterday.
Indonesia initially put the death toll at 75 but said many more were trapped under flattened buildings.
The 7.6-magnitude quake hit off the coast from the town of Padang. Rustam Pakaya, head of the Health Ministry's crisis centre, said thousands of people were trapped under collapsed buildings. The quake triggered a landslide that cut off land transport to the area closest to the epicentre. Power and telecommunications were also cut.
The quake was along the same fault line that spawned the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
A tsunami warning for countries along the Indian Ocean was issued and panicked residents fled to higher ground, fearing giant waves. The warning was lifted about an hour later.
Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said a shopping mall and two hospitals had collapsed in Padang - a sprawling low-lying city in Western Sumatra province of around 900,000 that geologists have warned could be vulnerable to a massive quake or tsunami.
"This is a high-scale disaster, more powerful than the earthquake in Yogyakarta in 2006" when more than 3,000 people died," Ms Supari said, referring to a major city on the main island of Java.
"Many buildings are badly damaged, including hotels and mosques," said Wandono, an official at Meteorology and Geophysics Agency in Jakarta. Television footage from Padang showed flattened buildings, the foot of one person sticking out from beneath the debris. …