Indonesian quake leaves 46 dead, dozens missing

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The Independent Online

Rescuers dug through rocks and debris with their bare hands today in search of dozens of villagers believed buried in a landslide triggered by a strong Indonesian earthquake that killed at least 46 people and damaged thousands of buildings.

At least 110 people were hospitalized with injuries from the 7.0 magnitude quake just off the coast of densely populated Java island, Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said, adding that 10 were in critical condition.

The earthquake yesterday afternoon caused destruction across West Java province, where more than 18,300 homes and offices were listed as damaged, around 9,000 of them seriously, Kardono said. At least 5,300 people were forced into temporary shelters, he said.

Some rural areas could not be reached by telephone and there may be more victims and damage, officials said.

Many of the deaths and injuries were caused by falling debris or collapsed walls and roofs.

In the village of Cikangkareng in Cianjur district, a landslide buried a row of homes under tons of rock and mud. At least 13 bodies were recovered and villagers were searching for dozens of people believed missing, Kardono said.

"Everything is gone, my wife, my old father-in-law and my house ... now I just hope to find the bodies of my family," farmer Ahmad Suhana, 34, said as he pried at giant stones with a crowbar.

Heavy digging equipment had not reached the remote village, which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was to visit later Thursday. Police, military personnel and villagers used their hands.

Maskana Sumitra, a district administrator, said 11 houses and a mosque were buried by the landslide and estimated that more than 50 people were trapped and feared dead.

"The chance of survival is so slim ... but we have to find them," Sumitra said.

The prolonged shaking from the quake was felt hundreds of miles (kilometers) away on the neighboring resort island of Bali.

In the capital, Jakarta, 125 miles (190 kilometers) north, thousands of panicked office workers flooded out of swaying skyscrapers onto the streets, some of them screaming.

The Disaster Management Agency said at least 46 people were confirmed dead.

Dede Kurniati said her 9-year-old son was playing at a friend's house when the earthquake struck and is now "buried under the rocks."

"I lost my son ... now I just want to see his body, I want to bury my lovely son properly," she said, weeping.

Hospitals in towns and cities across West Java province quickly filled with scores of injured people, most of them with broken bones and cuts.

A tsunami warning was issued after the quake struck at mid afternoon but was lifted an hour later. Several dozen aftershocks were measured by geological agencies.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago, straddles continental plates and is prone to seismic activity along what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. A huge quake off western Indonesia caused a powerful tsunami in December 2004 that killed about 230,000 people in a dozen countries, half of them in Aceh province.

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