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The BBC's Darren Jordan
"At least 58 people are known to have died"
 real 28k

The BBC's Patricia Nun
"The number of dead has climbed"
 real 28k

Alice Walker, British Geological Survey
"The epicentre was about 100 kilometres offshore"
 real 28k

Monday, 5 June, 2000, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Sumatra quake aid appeal
map
Indonesia has issued an urgent appeal for help after a massive earthquake struck the western island of Sumatra.

At least 58 people are now known to have died - with 500 people injured, 255 seriously - and many more are believed trapped by rubble.

The BBC Jakarta correspondent says the authorities urgently need medicines and tents in which to treat the many injured.

In the worst-hit area, Bengkulu, hundreds of buildings were brought down, the airport closed and electricity and water supplies cut.


Dozens of homes have been destroyed and almost all houses and buildings in the city seem to have been damaged

Sergeant Hariyono, Bengkulu police
Telephone lines have been knocked out and several roads into the province damaged, hampering rescue efforts.

The quake was recorded at 7.9 on the Richter scale by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The Indonesian Meteorological and Geophysical Service measured it at 7.3.

Panic

The tremor lasted several minutes and shook a wide area. It was followed by more than 30 aftershocks.


rubble
Many people are thought trapped in rubble
It was centred in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra's west coast - and was considered likely to cause a tsunami, commonly referred to as a tidal wave.

Several buildings collapsed in Bengkulu - a city of about 150,000 people, some 100km (60 miles) east of the quake's epicentre.

Widespread panic was reported as people dug through the rubble in search of bodies and trapped survivors.

The death toll is expected to rise further as volunteers and emergency workers search through ruined buildings.

Several buildings were damaged at Bengkulu airport.

Aftershocks

Witnesses said local hospitals were overwhelmed with injured people and were struggling to cope as few staff members had arrived at work.


Very probable situation for a tsunami in the Indian Ocean

USGS spokeswoman

Doctors in Bengkulu treated injured people outside, fearing that aftershocks might bring down the state hospital, the official Antara news agency reported.

The first tremor struck at 2328 local time (1628 GMT), followed 11 minutes later by an aftershock measured at 6.7 on the Richter scale.

The epicentre was 33km (21 miles) below the Earth's surface - "shallow in earthquake terms," USGS spokeswoman Carolyn Bell said.


damaged house
Hundreds of buildings have been damaged
She said it set up a "very probable situation for a tsunami in the Indian Ocean".

But police said there had been no reports so far of a tidal wave along the west Sumatran coast.

Shockwaves continued for several minutes and were felt 540km (335 miles) away in Jakarta, and in Singapore, more than 640km (400miles) distant.

Fault lines

The quake was one of the strongest recorded in Indonesia in recent years.

The Indonesian archipelago sits on major fault lines and is prone to frequent seismic upheavals.

A 6.5-rated earthquake in central Indonesia a month ago killed at least 16 people and caused a tsunami.

In December 1992, a magnitude 7 earthquake caused a tsunami that killed about 2,500 people on Flores island in eastern Indonesia.

An earthquake of the strength reported on Monday is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage in urban areas.

Some of those affected by the huge quake have been e-mailing BBC News Online telling of their ordeals.

Tony Milne said: "I was surprised to hear splashing in the swimming pool behind our house. There were waves betweenone and two feet high in the pool, but no sense of movement in the house."

Florence from Singapore added: "The first tremor was the strongest and we could not really stand properly.

"We live in the tallest floor and are the worst affected. Downstairs, people dressed in their pyjamas were out on the streets, helpless and full of anxiety."


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See also:

04 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Quake kills 16 in Indonesia
30 Nov 98 | Asia-Pacific
Killer waves so hard to detect
30 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
The Earth's Ring of Fire
30 Nov 98 | Asia-Pacific
Quake rocks Indonesian islands
05 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Sumatra: Caught between two plates
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