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"Dahsyat & perihnya" gempa sumatera barat

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"Dahsyat & perihnya" gempa sumatera barat

Post by ceacilia chelsy on Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:57 pm

PADANG, Indonesia – At least three Indonesian villages were obliterated by earthquake-triggered landslides that buried as many as 644 people including a wedding party under mountains of mud and debris, officials said Saturday.

The full extent of Wednesday's 7.6-magnitude earthquake was becoming apparent three days later as aid workers and government officials reached remote villages in the hills along Sumatra island's western coast.

If all 644 are confirmed dead — as is likely — the death toll in the disaster would jump to more than 1,300. The government's death toll currently is 715, with most casualties reported from the region's biggest city, Padang, where aid efforts are currently focused.

More than 3,000 people were listed as missing before the news about the obliterated villages emerged.

Rustam Pakaya, head of the Health Ministry's crisis center, said the villages of Pulau Aiya, Lubuk Lawe and Jumena in Pariaman district were completely wiped out by the landslides.

He said 400 people were attending a wedding in Pulau Aiya when the quake set off a landslide. In Indonesia's rural communities, weddings are often communal affairs open to the entire village.

"They were sucked 30 meters deep into the earth," Pakaya said. "Even the mosque's minaret, taller than 20 meters, disappeared."

He said about 244 others were buried in Lubuk Lawe and Jumena villages. Only 26 bodies had been extricated, he said.

An AP photographer who flew over Pariaman district in a helicopter saw several landslides in the area.

At one, a giant section of a hillside was swept away and the remains of destroyed houses protruded from the mud. The ruins of other homes hung precariously over the edge of a huge crevice that was torn through rice fields and forest. Roads were gone and trees had been uprooted and swept downhill.

MetroTV broadcast footage showing uprooted trees and a large empty area of brown earth where a village once stood. The houses were apparently been buried under tons of mud. The broadcast did not identify the village.

El-Mostafa Benlamlih, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for Indonesia, told the AP that 200 houses were swept away in Pulau Aiya.

The immediate medical needs from the quake were being met, but aid efforts are "still concentrated in Padang area," with outlying areas still short of aid, Benlamlih said.

He said aid agencies would focus on restoring public utilities, sanitation and preventing disease.

Elsewhere, disappointed rescue workers were unable to locate survivors buried under a collapsed hotel in Padang after one sent a cell-phone text message to a relative Friday saying he and some others were alive.

Frantic rescue efforts came to naught Saturday as sniffer dogs failed to detect life.

After several hours of digging through blocks of concrete, steel and bricks, rescue workers gave up. Padang police chief Col. Boy Rafli Amar told reporters, "So far rescuers have found nothing."

Hidehiro Murase, head of a Japanese search dog team, said its search had been fruitless.

"We did an extensive search this morning, but there were no signs of life. Our dogs are trained to smell for living people, not the dead, and they didn't sense anything," he told the AP.

Fuel was being rationed amid a power outage, water and food were in short supply and villagers dug out the dead with their bare hands.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla estimated that the quake damaged about 17 percent of buildings in the worst-hit areas.

He said recovery operation would cost at least $400 million.

Military and commercial planes shuttled in tons of emergency supplies.

Millions of dollars in aid and financial assistance came from Australia, Britain, China, Denmark, the European Union, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States, Indonesian officials said.

Wednesday's quake originated on the same fault line that spawned the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations.

___

Associated Press writers Ali Kotarumalos, Anthony Deutsch, Niniek Karmini and Vijay Joshi in Jakarta contributed to this report.

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