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Frantic search as Indonesia quake toll tops 1,000
Fri Oct 2, 2009 3:17am EDT
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By Sunanda Creagh
PADANG, Indonesia (Reuters) - Rescuers dug feverishly on Friday through the rubble of a school and other buildings toppled by an earthquake in the Indonesian port of Padang, but few victims were being found alive two days after the tremor.
The United Nations said more than 1,000 had been killed in the port, prone to seismic activity.
Aid to thousands of displaced survivors started trickling in, but rescue operations in and around Padang, the West Sumatran capital of 900,000, have been hampered by power blackouts and a lack of heavy equipment to shift fallen masonry.
A giant excavator donated by a cement company tore through piles of twisted iron and rubble, the wreckage of a three-storey college where dozens of students were attending after-school lessons when the quake struck.
"We have pulled out 38 children since the quake. Some of them, on the first day, were still alive, but the last few have all been dead," said foreman Suria. Like many Indonesians, he uses just one name.
"There are still a lot of corpses in there, you can smell it. They are toward the back where we can't reach. The problem is a lot of buildings around here weren't very well built."
The U.N. humanitarian chief, John Holmes, told a news conference at U.N. Headquarters in New York that some 1,100 people had been killed in Wednesday's 7.6 magnitude quake.
Thousands more were feared trapped under damaged houses, hospitals, hotels and schools, Holmes said.
Telephone links to the disaster zone remained patchy, making it hard to determine the extent of destruction and loss of life.
A social ministry official on Thursday put the number of confirmed deaths at 529, although authorities expected this to go far higher. The national disaster management center said 2,181 people had been injured and 2,650 buildings damaged.
Padang has at times descended into chaos, with fuel in short supply, some shops running out of food and many residents scrambling to find clean water. Many roads in the region have been severed by landslides.
Conditions in Pariaman, nearer the quake's epicenter, may be even worse with reports of buildings flattened. Conditions in more remote areas in the mountainous hinterland were unknown.
OPERATIONS PERFORMED IN TENTS
A two-storey clinic at Padang's main hospital collapsed, but was empty after closing a few hours before the quake.
Patients from adjacent wards were evacuated to nearby tents, while a makeshift open air morgue was set up, with lines of corpses placed in yellow body bags. Continued...
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