Indonesia quake toll at 57, many homes damaged

Indonesia quake toll at 57, many homes damaged

Indonesian villagers continued a frantic search on Thursday for people buried in the rubble, after a powerful quake killed at least 57 and destroyed thousands of homes in the hills of West Java, Reuters reported.

Government agencies said the death toll was likely to rise, given that some affected coastal areas could not be contacted after Wednesday's 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which sent terrified residents rushing out onto the streets of the capital, Jakarta, and in towns and villages closer to the epicenter in West Java.

In Cikangkareng village about 60 miles south of Jakarta, the quake triggered a landslide that buried more than 40 people, as well as houses and a mosque, under rocks and earth, a Reuters witness said.

"Many of our young were buried by the landslide. We need food, we don't have food," said villager Rohim.

Priyadi Kardono, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said that it was difficult to rescue any survivors or recover bodies trapped under the landslide because heavy earth-moving machines could not be used effectively.

He warned the death toll could "change significantly" given the scale of damage, with at least 57 people reported dead in West Java.

The quake injured about 150 people and damaged more than 24,000 houses, schools, offices, mosques and other buildings.

Indonesia's main power, oil and gas, steel, and mining companies with operations in West and Central Java island closest to the quake's epicenter said they had suffered no damage.

In Pangalengan district, about 130 km (80 miles) southeast of Jakarta, a woman who gave her name as Esti burst into tears as she returned home to find that only the roof of her house remained intact.

"I really hope the government will help me to rebuild my house," she said.

Reuters reporters saw many damaged houses, as well as tents and makeshift shelters on streets and in fields. Troops moved in to guard what was left of the homes and prevent looting.

Many people in Pangalengan refused to go back inside their houses fearing aftershocks.

"Nearly 50 percent of the houses here are flattened," said Endang Taminto, head of disaster relief unit at West Java's Rotary Club. "People are scattered everywhere, setting up tents using only plastic sheeting. They even sleep out in the tea plantations."

Indonesia's friends in the region offered help.

"We've said to the Indonesian authorities we will work with them in terms of any assistance that we can provide," Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told national radio.

Yukio Hatoyama, Japan's next prime minister after his Democratic Party of Japan's landslide election victory, said his government would provide help "regardless of any request."

"We need to make sure there are no delays in providing aid that we would normally be able to provide because of a policy vacuum," he said.

Indonesia's 17,000 islands are scattered along a belt of volcanic and seismic activity known as the Pacific "ring of fire," one of the most quake-prone places on earth.

More than 170,000 Indonesians were killed or listed as missing after a 9.15 magnitude earthquake off Indonesia's Aceh province on Sumatra island triggered a tsunami in December 2004. A total of 230,000 people died in Indian Ocean countries.

Indonesia's seismology agency put the magnitude of Wednesday's quake at 7.3 with the epicenter 142 km (88 miles) southwest of Tasikmalaya, in West Java.

The quake was felt as far away as Surabaya, Indonesia's second city, 500 km (300 miles) northeast of Tasikmalaya, and on the resort island of Bali, about 700 km (420 miles) to the east.

In Jakarta, thousands of people poured onto the streets when the quake rocked office and apartment blocks on Wednesday afternoon.

Haura Emilia, a student in Jakarta, was asleep at the time, and dashed down 35 floors from her apartment with no time to get properly dressed.

"The walls and floor of my apartment cracked, windows on the top floor broke. People hurried out of the building," she said.

"I only wore a tee-shirt and my short pants. I was so embarrassed running around in those, but luckily many people were in the same state."

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