Indonesian quake leaves 44 dead

September 2, 2009 7:04:16 PM PDT
At least 44 people were killed and dozens were missing after a strong earthquake rocked southern Indonesia, unleashing mudslides that buried villagers in their homes, disaster management officials said Thursday. At least 110 people were hospitalized after the 7.0 magnitude quake just off the coast of the densely populated Java island, Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said, adding that 10 of them were in critical condition.

The Wednesday afternoon temblor caused heavy damage across West Java province, where 700 buildings were severely damaged or toppled. Most of the deaths and injuries were caused by falling debris or collapsed walls and rooftops.

A village in Cianjur district was hit by a landslide, burying dozens under tons of rock and mud. At least 10 bodies were recovered and villagers were digging in search of around 40 people listed as missing, Kardono said.

The prolonged shaking from the quake, which the Indonesian Meteorological and Geophysics Agency put at a stronger 7.3, was felt hundreds of miles (kilometers) away on the neighboring resort island of Bali.

In the capital, Jakarta, 125 miles (190 kilometers) away, thousands of panicked office workers flooded out of swaying skyscrapers onto the streets, some of them screaming.

The Disaster Management Agency said at least 44 people died. With several dozen reported missing, officials said they feared the death toll would rise.

"The earthquake was shaking everything in my house very strongly for almost a minute," Heni Maryani, a resident in the town of Sukabumi told el Shinta radio. "I grabbed my children and ran out. I saw people were in panic. Women were screaming, and children were crying."

Hospitals quickly filled with scores of injured people.

A tsunami warning was issued after the quake struck at 2:55 p.m. (0755 GMT, 3:55 a.m. EDT) but was lifted an hour later. Several dozen aftershocks were measured by geological agencies.

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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