PADANG - Rescue workers used excavators yesterday to pull out victims - some screaming in pain -from the heavy rubble of buildings felled by a powerful earthquake that killed at least 531 people. The death toll is expected to rise.
The brunt of Wednesday's 7,6-magnitude earthquake, which originated in the sea off the island of Sumatra, appeared to have been borne by Padang town, where 376 people were killed. Four other districts accounted for the remaining deaths.
The region was jolted by another powerful earthquake yesterday morning, causing damage but no reported fatalities.
More than 500 buildings including hotels, schools and hospitals were destroyed or damaged in Padang. Thousands of people were believed to be trapped in the rubble.
"Oh God, help me! help me!" Friska Yuniwati, a 30-year-old woman, screamed in pain when she was carried to an ambulance. She had been pulled out minutes earlier from the rubble of a house, her face covered in bruises and eyes firmly shut.
Padang's state-run Djamil Hospital was overwhelmed by the influx of victims and families. Dozens of injured people were being treated under tents outside the hospital, itself partly damaged.
"Let's not underestimate the disaster. Let's be prepared for the worst. We will do everything we can to help the victims," President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in the capital Jakarta before flying to Padang, a coastal city of 900000.
The quake was so powerful that it caused buildings to sway hundreds of kilometres away in Malaysia and Singapore.
In Padang, children screamed as thousands of residents fled in cars and on motorbikes, honking horns.
They feared the quake would trigger a tsunami, but no giant waves struck. - Sapa-AP