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Strong Indonesian quake kills 42

The death toll is expected to rise sharply. Many houses were flattened and scores of buildings were heavily damaged.

September 03, 2009|Reuters

PANGALENGAN, INDONESIA — The death toll from an earthquake that struck Indonesia, shattering rural homes and forcing terrified city residents into the streets, stood at 42 and was likely to rise, the government said.

The magnitude 7 quake shook buildings in Jakara, the capital, Wednesday afternoon and flattened homes in villages closer to the epicenter in West Java.

"They have taken refuge not only because their houses were ruined, but also because they fear there will be aftershocks," local official Obar Sobarna said. About 5,000 people were on the streets in the area, he said.

Officials said about 1,300 houses were damaged, though local news reports put the number at 3,500.

The quake triggered a landslide in the district of Cianjur, about 60 miles south of Jakarta, said Priyadi Kardono, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Kardono said the death toll was expected to rise sharply because scores of houses and offices had collapsed or were heavily damaged.

Some areas near the epicenter could not be contacted for several hours.

"Communications with the coastal areas were completely cut, so we don't know the conditions there," Kardono said.

Asian states offered to help deal with the quake aftermath.

"We've said to the Indonesian authorities we will work with them in terms of any assistance that we can provide," Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told national radio.

Indonesia's 17,000 islands are scattered along a belt of volcanic and seismic activity known as the Pacific "ring of fire," one of the most quake-prone places on Earth.

More than 170,000 Indonesians were killed or listed as missing after a magnitude 9 earthquake off Indonesia's Aceh province on Sumatra triggered a tsunami in December 2004. More than 200,000 people died in Indian Ocean countries.

Indonesia's seismology agency put the magnitude of Wednesday's quake at 7.3.

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