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Save Sumatra quake buried


Rescue teams have resumed the desperate search for survivors following a devastating earthquake on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Many people are thought to be trapped under rubble after the 7.6-magnitude quake struck on Wednesday.

The death toll already stands at more than 1,000, according to the UN, and officials say they expect it to rise.

On Friday, Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari appealed for foreign aid to help the rescue effort.

"We need help from foreign countries for evacuation efforts," AFP news agency quoted her as saying.

"We need them to provide skilled rescuers with equipment. Our main problem is that there are a lot of victims still trapped in the rubble. We are struggling to pull them out."

The quake struck close to the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province, bringing scores of buildings crashing to the ground.

Overnight, rescue workers rigged up floodlights and brought in a giant excavator as they tried to find students trapped beneath a collapsed three-storey school.

The Jakarta Post reported that 60 children were in the building when it collapsed.

Police said on Thursday that nine children had been found alive but that eight bodies had also been pulled from the rubble so far.

Part of Padang’s main hospital also collapsed and a makeshift open air morgue has been set up to take the growing number of yellow body bags.

Operations were being performed in nearby white tents.

"We have done hundreds of operations since the earthquake," said Dr Nofli Ichlas.

"Some broken bones, some with limbs completely cut off. Fractured skulls, abdominal trauma too."

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono flew to the region after arriving back from the G20 summit on Thursday and stayed overnight to help oversee the rescue.

Access ‘difficult’

The BBC’s Alastair Leithead in Sumatra says the main airport has re-opened and aid supplies and rescue teams have been arriving.

MAJOR INDONESIAN QUAKES

Map

26 Dec 2004: Asian tsunami kills 170,000 in Indonesia alone

28 March 2005: About 1,300 killed after a magnitude 8.7 quake hits the coast of Sumatra

27 May 2006: Quake hits ancient city of Yogyakarta, killing 5,000

17 July 2006: A tsunami after a 7.7 magnitude quake in West Java province kills 550 people

30 Sept 2009: 7.6 magnitude quake near Sumatran city of Padang, thousands feared dead

1 Oct 2009: Second of two quakes near Padang, magnitude 6.8 – no damage or casualties reported

Yenni Suriyani, of the Catholic Relief Services, told the BBC that her organisation already had one team in the area and hoped to send more rescuers over the weekend.

"They’ve seen many people trapped under the collapsed buildings and many buildings also – including schools and office buildings – already collapsed," she said.

"We could not get (to) all of the target area yet because in some areas the access is still difficult."

Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said that up to 100 Australians were unaccounted for after the quake, although there was no evidence so far that any had been killed or injured.

Padang is a popular destination for surfers.

"I’m always concerned when we’ve got potentially 100 Australians whose whereabouts we can’t vouchsafe for," he told Australian broadcaster ABC.

Mr Smith said Australia was sending aid supplies and also a search and rescue team, plus 10 engineering specialists.

Other countries around the world are also sending aid, including the UK, South Korea and Japan.

US President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, also pledged to support the recovery effort.

The main earthquake struck at 1716 local time (1016 GMT) on Wednesday, some 85km (55 miles) under the sea, north-west of Padang, the US Geological Survey said.

A second quake of 6.8 struck close to Padang at 0852 local time (0152 GMT) on Thursday causing panic but no reports of casualties or damage.

Sumatra lies close to the geological fault line that triggered the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Geologists have long warned that Padang – a city of 900,000 people – could one day be completely destroyed by an earthquake because of its location.

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