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September 3, 2009

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Powerful quake kills 32 as it hits Indonesia

A magnitude-7.0 earthquake rattled southern Indonesia yesterday, killing at least 32 people who were crushed by falling rocks or collapsed buildings and sending thousands fleeing outdoors for safety in the middle of the work day.
Hospitals quickly filled with scores of injured people after the quake struck off the southern coast of the main island of Java, where most of Indonesia's 235 million people live.
Officials said the death toll was expected to rise.
"The earthquake was shaking everything in my house very strongly for almost a minute," said Heni Maryani, a resident in the town of Sukabumi. "I grabbed my children and ran out, I saw people were in panic, women were screaming and children were crying."
Disaster officials said hundreds of homes and buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged in three districts in densely populated West Java. The worst report of fatalities was from a village in Cianjur District, where about 30 people were still believed trapped under rocks and dirt, the official Antara news agency reported.
A tsunami warning was issued after the quake struck at 2:55pm but was revoked an hour later.
Muharaham Ardan, a university lecturer in the town of Tasikmalaya, about 115 kilometers from the epicenter, said it was the biggest quake he had ever felt.
"We all ran out in panic, we didn't even put our sandals on," he said.
Social Affairs Ministry official Mardi said more than 700 houses and buildings were badly damaged.
Antara reported that 12 families, or about 30 people, were trapped in houses buried by the landslide in Rawa Hideung Village, Cianjur District. Six bodies had been recovered and the fate of many others was unknown, a resident, Agus Sobandi, was quoted as saying.
"Most of them are housewives and children who were playing PlayStation," Entang Kurniawan, another resident, told broadcaster TVOne.
Aftershock fears
Fifi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said he saw at least 20 houses collapse in his village of Pameungpek. Some villagers were slightly injured.
"Residents here are still staying outside. We are afraid of aftershocks," he said.
The quake was felt over roughly half of Java island. In the capital, Jakarta, 190 kilometers from the epicenter, panicked office workers ran onto the streets.
Health Ministry Crisis Center chief Rustam Pakaya said at least 27 people were admitted to hospitals in Jakarta and the number of injured was rising.
The US Geological Survey said the underwater quake had a depth of about 50 kilometers.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was powerful enough to cause a local tsunami, but there were no immediate reports of high waves.
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 around 230,000 people in a dozen countries.


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