M A I N   N E W S

Over 3,000 killed in Indonesia quake

Jakarta, May 27
An earthquake that shook the area around the ancient royal city of Yogyakarta today killed more than 3,000 persons, a government official has said.
“The total for now is 3,000 persons killed. The number keeps climbing by the hour because evacuation is still on,” Desmawati, an official at the Social Affairs Ministry's disaster task force in Jakarta, said.

The epicentre of the quake, which struck just before 0430 hrs IST with a magnitude of 6.2 according to the US Geological Survey, was offshore. A Jakarta earthquake centre official said there was no tsunami.

Several bodies could be seen in the rubble nearby. Hundreds of villagers sat outside their ruined homes looking dazed and confused.

Hospital patients, including newborns, were moved outside due to fears of aftershocks.

Yogyakarta's airport was closed with a damaged runway, Transportation Minister Hatta Rajasa said. Access to the city by road was difficult.

Thousands of residents took refuge in Yogyakarta's main square while others sheltered in the compounds of scores of mosques, churches and hospitals throughout the region.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who visited the area to survey the damage, had earlier urged officials “to bring out their resources to prioritise the evacuation of the injured and the handling of the corpses.”

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said medical teams had been sent to the hardest-hit areas where a shortage of doctors and medicines had been reported.

Yogyakarta is in the heartland of Indonesia's main island of Java and stands near Mount Merapi, a volcano that has been on top alert for a major eruption this month.

A volcanologist in Yogyakarta said the quake was not caused by the volcano but Merapi's activity increased after the shock.

“After the earthquake there were more clouds coming out of the crater,” Subandrio, Merapi section head at the Centre for Volcanological Research and Technology Department, said.

Krisdan, a resident living on the slopes of the volcano, said when the quake hit, “I was cleaning the house. All of a sudden there was a big jolt and sounds of thunder. We ran outside.”

Yogyakarta's royal palaces and the nearby Borobudur Temple complex are prime attractions for tourists.

A staff member at a hotel opposite Borobudur said the ancient Buddhist complex was intact with no signs of damage, although several structures nearby collapsed.

Another tourist site, the Prambanan Hindu temple complex near Jakarta, suffered some damage to its smaller structures but the main building was intact, a witness said.

A major quake in March 2005 had killed about 1,000 persons on Nias island and nearby areas off Sumatra. Hospital officials said the victims had generally suffered head injuries and broken bones from collapsing buildings.

Witnesses said thousands of houses had collapsed in the quake. Office and government buildings were also in ruins. — Reuters





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