Indonesian crisis center says 13 people killed in powerful earthquake off Sumatra island

By Niniek Karmini, AP
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Indonesian earthquake kills 13, flattens buildings

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A disaster management official says 13 people have been killed and thousands trapped under flattened buildings in a powerful earthquake in western Indonesia.

Rustam Pakaya, head of the Health Ministry’s crisis center, said a field hospital was being prepared to assist the injured and medical teams were on the way from neighboring provinces.

A 7.6-magnitude quake hit just off the coast of the town of Padang, Western Sumatra province on Wednesday.

Officials said the quake triggered a landslide that cut off land transport to the area closest to the epicenter. Power and telecommunications were also cut.

The quake was along the same fault line that spawned the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A powerful earthquake rocked western Indonesia Wednesday, toppling buildings, cutting power and triggering a landslide on Sumatra island. Many people were feared trapped beneath the rubble.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.6. 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 after about an hour.

The quake was centered 30 miles (50 kilometers) off the coastal city of Padang, in West Sumatra province, along the same fault line the spawned the massive 2004 Asian tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Indonesian television reported that hundreds of buildings had collapsed and many people were feared trapped under the rubble. Footage from Padang showed flattened buildings, with at least one person trapped underneath, a foot sticking out from beneath the debris.

“The earthquake was very strong,” said Kasmiati, who lives on the coast near to the epicenter. “People ran to high ground. Houses and buildings were badly damaged.”

“I was outside, so I am safe, but my children at home were injured,” she said before her cell phone went dead.

The quake triggered a landslide that cut off land transport to the provincial town of Padang Pandang, which lies about 45 miles (70 kilometers) north of Padang, said a police officer in the town, who identified himself only as Riko. He said three cars were reportedly hit by the landslide.

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

Power in the city was reportedly cut and telecommunications networks were down or overloaded, making it difficult to get accurate information about the extent of the damage.

“Many buildings are badly damaged, including hotels and mosques,” said Wandono, an official at Meteorology and Geophysic Agency in the capital, Jakarta, citing reports from residents.

He said a steep, sloping riverbank collapsed, houses had toppled and a fire had broken out in buildings on the road to Padang.

Wednesday’s quake comes a day after a quake with a magnitude of between 8.0 and 8.3 in the South Pacific hurled a massive tsunami at the shores of Samoa and American Samoa, flattening villages and leaving at least 99 dead and dozens missing.

The epicenter of Wednesday’s temblor off Indonesia lies several thousand miles (kilometers) to the west, on the other side of Australia.

The shaking could be felt in high buildings in Jakarta, several hundred miles (kilometers) away. It was also felt in neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

Witnesses said residents of Padang, and other town and cities, ran out of homes and buildings in fear.

Indonesia’s TVOne reported many people were trapped in the collapsed buildings.

Many buildings had collapsed in the resort town of Bukit Tinggi, 90 miles (150 kilometers) northeast of Padang, TVone said.


AP reporters Ali Kotarumalos, Irwan Firdaus contributed to this article.

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