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Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 18:11 UK

Indonesia quake search stepped up

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Rescuers search through rubble to look for survivors

Rescuers in Indonesia are searching the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors after a powerful earthquake, with the toll expected to rise.

At least 57 people are confirmed dead and thousands of homes ruined after the 7.0-magnitude quake hit on Wednesday.

More than 100 people are in hospital and dozens are still missing.

Damaged roads and poor weather are hampering efforts to get heavy rescue equipment to the worst-hit areas in the West Javan district of Cianjur.

Java map

At least 40 people remained missing in the village of Cikangkareng after a landslide buried a row of homes.

Police, military personnel and villagers are using their bare hands to try to reach survivors buried in the rubble.

"You can't see the roofs at all, everything is completely buried," Priyadi Kardono, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said.

"The chances of anyone surviving is very, very small."

Desperate search

More than 18,000 homes across West Java province have been damaged, about 9,000 seriously, Mr Kardono said.

AT THE SCENE
The BBC's Karishma Vaswani
Karishma Vaswani, BBC News, Cianjur

After the quake, villagers are too afraid to go back to their homes.

They are worried that aftershocks or more earthquakes could damage the flimsy structures, and they would rather brave the elements than risk the possibility of being trapped.

Darsa, 48, told me he was taking no chances and that he was willing to live in a tent for up to two weeks.

"I am very afraid," he said. "My home is very near where the landslide happened. And I'm worried there will be more landslides because of further aftershocks or earthquakes. I don't want to go back."

It's a refrain I hear often as I travel around this area.

At least 110 people have been hospitalised with 10 in a critical condition, he added.

Indonesian television showed people being treated in temporary tents, while others were being attended to outside in hospital grounds.

Garut and Tasikmalaya districts, along with Cianjur, about 100km (62 miles) south of Jakarta, were among the worst hit.

Food and water packages have arrived in some districts but some remote villages are yet to receive any assistance, the BBC's Karishma Vaswani reports from the area.

Rescue efforts are being hampered as several roads have been badly damaged and it has begun to rain. As a result, heavy digging equipment has not reached the hardest-hit villages, she adds.

Communications links to settlements on the south coast were broken by the quake, so the extent of damage and casualties is not yet known.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is visiting the area, told our reporter that the government had everything under control and international assistance was not yet necessary.

Fear and uncertainty

Villagers walk among rocks from landslide triggered by earthquake in West Java, Indonesia, 3 September 2009

About 5,000 people have sought shelter in makeshift tents. "They have taken refuge not only because their houses were ruined, but also because they fear there will be aftershocks," said local official Obar Sobarna.

The quake epicentre was about 115km off the south coast of Java, near Tasikmalaya.

Mudslides inundated homes, collapsed rooftops and damaged properties in Tasikmalaya, including the mayor's home and a mosque.

The tremors were felt in the capital, Jakarta, 200km to the north, where hundreds fled into the streets from offices and shops.

A local tsunami alert was issued but revoked shortly afterwards.

The quake was also felt 500km away from its epicentre in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, and on the resort island of Bali.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

In December 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people around Asia.

Our correspondent says memories of the 2004 disaster are still fresh in the minds of people.

She says the Indonesian government has implemented an early warning system for tsunamis since then, but it is not fully operational yet.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, one of the most active areas for earthquakes and volcanic activity in the world.


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Tremor hits Indonesia quake area
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