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September 5, 2009

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Indonesian quake death toll stands at 64

INDONESIAN rescue workers pulled several bodies from the rubble of a giant landslide yesterday, lifting the death toll from a powerful earthquake to 64, and dozens more people were still missing, feared dead.

Hopes of finding possible survivors were fading two days after the quake, officials said.

The number of houses destroyed or damaged in Wednesday's magnitude 7.0 temblor, which was centered off the southern coast of the main island of Java, jumped to more than 87,000, Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said.

Around 28,000 people were in need of shelter, he said. Aid agencies were distributing tents, blankets and basic provisions, but some rural areas were difficult to reach.

Two dozen bodies had been recovered from Cikangkareng village, in the badly hit district of Cianjur, where 37 people were still missing after 10 houses and a mosque were buried under tons of rock and mud.

"Their parents are still waiting at the scene, hoping we will find the bodies," rescue worker Agus Sobari said.

Other victims have been found under collapsed houses and debris in towns and cities across West Java province. More than 400 people were injured and 125 people were hospitalized with broken bones and cuts, the disaster agency said on its Website.

Yesterday, authorities deployed hundreds of soldiers and policemen, including sniffer dogs, to help the search for survivors, including in the landslide area where heavy lifting equipment could not reach, el-Shinta radio reported.

The search would last a week, Kardono said, but the chance of finding anyone alive was becoming increasingly slim.

"We cannot conclude they have died until emergency response efforts are over," Kardono said.


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