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Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Deadly earthquake hits Indonesia

People hunt through rubble in Payakumbuh, west Sumatra
People hunt through rubble in Payakumbuh, west Sumatra

A powerful earthquake has hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra, flattening hundreds of buildings and killing at least 70 people.

The 6.3 magnitude quake struck close to the city of Padang in the west of the island, at 1049 local time (0349 GMT).

Rescue teams are trying to reach survivors but communications and electricity supplies have been cut.

As night fell, many people around Padang remained out in the open, too afraid or unable to return home.

The quake and a powerful aftershock had caused panic among residents on Tuesday morning, bringing many rushing out of their homes and offices.

It was like the being in a ship where you were swayed around when there were big waves
Solok resident

"The houses were all swaying away, so were the things inside and lots of the houses collapsed," a man in Padang told the BBC.

Rescue workers said hundreds of buildings had been brought down, although the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Jakarta says many of these are likely to be small, wooden houses.

Residents of some coastal areas fled to higher ground, but local officials said there was no risk of a tsunami as the earthquake happened under land rather than under the sea.

Communications cut

The epicentre of the quake was about 50km (30 miles) north-east of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra.

RECENT INDONESIAN QUAKES
Map
6 March 2007: Magnitude 6.3 quake hits Sumatra, at least 70 dead
18 December 2006: Mag 5.7 quake hits Sumatra, seven dead
17 July 2006: Tsunami from Mag 7.7 quake off Java kills 500
27 May 2006: Mag 6.2 quake near Yogyakarta kills 5,000
26 December 2004: Tsunami from Mag 9.1 quake kills 130,000 in Sumatra

Electricity cuts are causing communication problems and it may be some time before the final number of dead and injured and the full extent of the damage are known.

Officials said 18 people had been killed in the town of Solok, while 16 were killed in Tanah Datar.

The mayor of Solok, Samsurahim, said he could not say how many people were still trapped in the rubble.

Local hospitals struggled to cope and medical teams hastily erected tents to treat many of the wounded outside.

Christelle Chapoy, from the aid charity Oxfam's earthquake response team, told the BBC her organisation was ready to assist.

"We have a standby emergency response team based in Yogyakarta [on Java], and they're collecting information from our local partners at this stage," she said from Banda Aceh in northern Sumatra.

Ring of fire

The quake was also felt hundreds of kilometres away in parts of Malaysia, and several tall buildings in Singapore's business district swayed slightly.

Indonesia sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, and experiences frequent earthquakes - as well as tsunamis triggered by underwater earthquakes.

Last year, more than 500 people died when a tsunami hit an area of the Java coast after an undersea earthquake.

And in the Asian tsunami of December 2004, more than 130,000 people died in Sumatra when waves destroyed swathes of the province of Aceh.



SEE ALSO
Eyewitness: Indonesia earthquake
06 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
How earthquakes happen
01 Jun 09 |  Science & Environment
Deadly history of earthquakes
06 Mar 07 |  Special Reports
Country profile: Indonesia
23 Jan 07 |  Country profiles


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