Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 13:42 UK

Eyewitness: Sumatra earthquake

Two British people describe the shock and devastation caused by the the powerful earthquake which struck the city of Padang on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Philip Proctor moved to Padang from Scarborough with his wife and daughter at the beginning of September. His intention was to teach English there. He says that experiencing the earthquake might make him change his plans.

Quake rescue site in Padang, Indonesia, 1 October
At least 700 people are known to have died

We live about four or five miles from the centre of Padang. Our house was built around 1975. Older houses like this are much stronger and the amount of structural damage where we are is minimal. It's the newer buildings in town that have had the biggest damage.

I was in bed when the earthquake started. I just ran out of the house like everyone did. It didn't last long, about 30 seconds of very intense shaking. I could see the buildings moving and cracks developing in the road. The experience was too intense to really think about. What is more terrifying is waiting for the aftershock.

My wife was with me but my daughter was about three streets away with her aunt. As soon as the tremor stopped I ran to find her. I didn't think about it and just ran in my bare feet.

Many people left immediately for villages on higher ground because they were worried about a possible tsunami. About half of those who were left, including my family, spent the night in a mosque.

The house is ok, although we have no water or electricity. The electricity went off immediately and I don't expect it'll be back on for some time. In the past it's taken a week or so to come back on. We also have no water now. We've been collecting rain water and bathing in the river.

We've also managed to get hold of a petrol generator so we have some power. The rain has stopped now, but it has rained almost continuously all night. We managed to get 24 cartons of drinking water from our local street seller.

Some of the local shops and markets opened this morning. People were queuing up and we have enough food for a week - noodles and things like that. If we can't get more after a week I think we'll think about moving to another city, but I don't know where.

Dorian Bell manages the office of a surfing charter company in Padang. He says he is still in a state of shock.

I've just landed in Medan. I was desperate to leave Padang because most of the hotels were destroyed and there was no place to stay.
Quake rescue site in Padang, Indonesia, 1 October

I spend two weeks every month in Padang, where I manage the office of a surfing charter company.

I was in the office when the earthquake happened. The building shook violently and I ran outside as fast as I could. It lasted about 20 to 30 seconds and it was very frightening. I went to the parking area and I saw the cars shaking violently.

The building itself did not fall down, apart from parts of the front walls, so we were very lucky to be able to get outside. All of the people working there managed to leave.

We gathered in the parking area and waited a bit to recover from the shock. Then I realised that everything I own is in that building - my passport, files, money, computer. I had to go back in.

The building was a mess - everything had fallen off the shelves, computers, desks, everything lying scattered on the floor. There was no electricity, no water, the building wasn't functioning anymore.

'Nothing standing'

I grabbed my personal belongings and left in a hurry. I went home - I rent a flat in one of the residential areas. Many houses on our street had collapsed. Three-storey buildings were razed to the ground. Whole chunks of the streets were completely flat; nothing was standing.

In the whole of Padang, 30% of the houses were completely destroyed and of those still standing 80% are damaged and may have to be demolished later on.

Our building was still standing, though it was tilted over to one side. There was no electricity and I found a complete mess inside. I grabbed some clothes and other essentials and went back to the car.

I wanted to spend the night in a hotel, but most hotels were destroyed. The biggest one was still standing, but it was closed. That was lucky, because that same hotel collapsed during the aftershock today.

I got in the car, drove to the office, parked there and spend the night in the car. There were five of us there sleeping in our cars. All over Padang people were doing the same. Everybody was driving up and down, everybody was out, people didn't want to go inside buildings.

My staff tell me that this is the biggest earthquake in Padang to ever take place. People were very scared. You have to experience it to know what it feels like.

One of my colleagues lost his house, but everybody I know is unhurt. I told my staff to go and take care of their families.

I don't know when I'll be able to go back; I need to get over the shock first. In any case, I'll be very cautious about going back.

Are you in the area? Have you been affected by the earthquake? Send us your experiences using the form below:

Send your pictures and videos to or text them to +44 7725 100 100. If you have a large file you can upload here.

Read the terms and conditions

At no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

Your E-mail address
Town & Country

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific