Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 18:20 UK

Thousands still trapped by quake


The moments after a sports hall roof collapsed at karate practice in Padang

Almost 3,000 people are still trapped under rubble following Wednesday's powerful earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, officials say.

More than 1,000 people are known to have died and the chances of finding survivors are growing slimmer.

Rescue teams from several countries are heading to the Indonesian city of Padang in a last push to save lives.

Some were focused on a hotel where as many as eight people may still be alive, and where noises were heard.

As night fell, rescuers said they were close to a room where a seminar was being held when the quake struck.

Voices were heard from under the rubble earlier, and a newly-arrived Swiss rescue team said it had picked up frantic knocking sounds using sophisticated audio equipment.

Rachel Harvey
Rachel Harvey, BBC News, Padang

Darkness has fallen for the third time since the earthquake struck and once again powerful floodlights are trained on what remains of a large hotel.

Twisted wreckage of cars and rubble are still piled high here and the rescuers say they now may be close to a room where it's known a seminar was taking place on Wednesday evening.

Several people are thought to be trapped inside that room and the rumour here tonight is that miraculously even at this late stage some people may have survived and there is a long queue of ambulances here waiting just in case.

But an AFP reporter also described a stench hanging over the hotel, as bodies there began to decompose in the equatorial heat.

At least one survivor, a young woman, was pulled from under a collapsed school earlier in the day.

The rescue of Ratna Kurnia Sari on Friday was a boost to emergency workers who were enduring tough conditions as they scrambled to reach survivors in Padang.

At least one other young woman was reported to be trapped close to where the first rescue took place.

Although rescue efforts focused on Padang, aid workers and reporters said that in rural areas thousands more buildings had been destroyed and whole villages flattened.

"From the aerial assessments carried out yesterday, the feedback is, yes Padang city and environs are bad, but once you go outside into the surrounding rural areas, the situation is very seriously grave," said International Red Cross coordinator Christine South, quoted by AFP news agency.

There was still no information for some areas including Mentawai Island, 57km from the coast, she added.

An AP reporter said parts of Pariaman district, to the north of Padang, had virtually no buildings left standing and had received no outside help.

Need for machinery

US President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Jakarta, called his Indonesian counterpart to offer condolences and help with the relief effort, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari has appealed for more foreign aid to help the rescue effort.


26 Dec 2004: Asian tsunami kills 170,000 in Indonesia alone
28 March 2005: About 1,300 killed after a magnitude 8.7 quake hits the coast of Sumatra
27 May 2006: Quake hits ancient city of Yogyakarta, killing 5,000
17 July 2006: A tsunami after a 7.7 magnitude quake in West Java province kills 550 people
30 Sept 2009: 7.6 magnitude quake near Sumatran city of Padang, thousands feared dead
1 Oct 2009: Second of two quakes near Padang, magnitude 6.8 - no damage or casualties reported

There were calls in particular for skilled rescuers with specialised equipment to penetrate the unstable rubble.

A team of British firefighters is due to arrive over the weekend.

In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said a plane carrying engineering and health teams was on its way to Indonesia, with a 44-strong rescue team due to arrive in Sumatra.

Other nations have also pledged aid to Indonesia, among them China ($500,000; £315,000), South Korea (43-strong rescue team and $500,000), and Germany ($1.5m).

The quake struck on Wednesday close to Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province, bringing scores of buildings crashing to the ground.

The main earthquake struck at 1716 local time (1016 GMT), some 85km (55 miles) under the sea, north-west of Padang, the US Geological Survey said.

A second quake of 6.8 struck close to Padang at 0852 local time (0152 GMT) on Thursday causing panic but no reports of casualties or damage.

Sumatra lies close to the geological fault line that triggered the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Geologists have long warned that Padang - a city of 900,000 people - could one day be completely destroyed by an earthquake because of its location.

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