Quake toll in western Indonesia reaches 467

JAKARTA:A government official says the death toll in Wednesday’s earthquake on Indonesia’s Sumatra island has reached 467, AFP reports.

Tugiyo Bisri of the Social Affairs Ministry’s crisis center says a total of 467 people are confirmed dead and 421 seriously injured in Wednesday’s 7.6 magnitude quake.

He said Thursday that 376 deaths occurred in Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province. Pasaman district accounted for 75 deaths and the other dead were from three other districts.

‘People are trapped, hotels have collapsed, schools have collapsed, houses have collapsed and electricity has been cut off,’ Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters in Jakarta.

Health Ministry crisis centre head Rustam Pakaya told AFP that a major city hospital was among the many buildings that had buckled.

‘Houses and buildings have collapsed, causing thousands of people to be trapped inside in the rubble,’ Pakaya said.

Rescue teams and doctors had been rushed out overland and were expected to arrive in the city and nearby affected areas overnight, Pakaya added.

He said he expected the death toll to soar over 1,000 as rescuers reached the city, where communications and power had been cut off by the quake.

Three military transport planes had been prepared to deliver aid including tents, blankets and medicine, Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said.

‘The effects of the earthquake could be as big as the Yogyakarta quake,’ he said, referring to a 2006 quake that killed 6,000.

Local media reported that panicked residents rushed from their homes during the quake, which struck off Sumatra’s west coast at 5:16 pm local time, 47 kilometres northwest of Padang.

The quake was followed by dozens of aftershocks, two of which were over 6.0-magnitude, Indonesian geophysics agency technical head Suharjono said, adding that damage was expected to be spread over a wide area.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) had put the quake at a magnitude of 7.9, but later revised it down slightly.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii initially put out a tsunami watch after the quake but later withdrew it.

The quake was felt in the capital Jakarta, 940 kilometres away, and sent frightened office workers streaming out of buildings in nearby Singapore and the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

‘The shaking was the worst I had ever felt,’ Yuliarni, a resident of Pariaman district outside Padang, told TVOne news channel.

‘Houses have collapsed, the lights and electricity were cut off… People were fleeing to higher ground and some were hurt,’ she said.

The quake caused a landslide that destroyed houses at Lake Maninjau, inland from Padang, local resident Hafiz told the channel, while the city airport was slightly damaged but was expected to reopen on Thursday.

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