7.6-magnitude quake rocked West Sumatera

A powerful earthquake rattled the city of Padang, West Sumatra, on Wednesday, leaving at least 75 dead and trapping thousands under flattened buildings, officials said.

The death toll was likely to increase as many buildings, including houses, hotels, schools and shops, collapsed, Vice President Jusuf Kalla told a news conference in Jakarta after chairing an emergency meeting on the disaster response and coordination.

As communication lines were cut, the number of victims in the Pariaman regency, which is nearest to the epicenter in the Indian Ocean, are still unknown. A Pariaman native, the politician Indra Piliang, said as quoted by, “almost all houses are flattened.”

Rustam Pakaya, the head of the Health Ministry's disaster center in Jakarta, said thousands of people were still trapped in the rubble of buildings.

The 7.6-magnitude quake sparked fires and there were power outages across the entire city. The roof of Padang's Minangkabau Airport reportedly collapsed, forcing a temporary closure, and roads and bridges were destroyed.

Tremors were felt in Medan, Pekanbaru, Jambi, Bengkulu and other areas across Sumatra Island, as well as in Singapore and Malaysia, meteorologists and witnesses said, causing widespread panic in all affected towns.

A tsunami warning for countries around the Indian Ocean was issued after the earthquake struck Wednesday evening, but was lifted an hour and a half later.

Heavy rainfall later in the evening worsened the situation in Padang, as most victims lacked emergency tents for shelter.

Witnesses told local television and radio hundreds of houses had collapsed and a road to the coastal town of Padang was cut off, while flights were canceled to the city, airlines officials said.

TV footage showed devastation, with piles of rubble and collapsed houses in Padang.

“Hundreds of houses have been damaged, there are fires, bridges are cut and there is extreme panic here. Ruptured water pipes have triggered flooding,” said a Reuters witness in the city, before his cell phone was cut off.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.9, and struck 50 kilometers off the coast of Sumatra.

However, the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) in Medan put the quake’s magnitude at 7.6.
Its epicenter was 71 kilometers under the sea off Pariaman, 70 kilometers from Padang. The quake hit at around 5:16 p.m. for about four minutes along the same fault line that spawned the massive Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

source : the jakarta post


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