Toll Hits 3,700 as Indonesia Digs Out From Latest Quake

Times Staff Writers

At least 3,700 people were killed and thousands more were injured Saturday in a powerful earthquake that struck densely populated central Java island and reduced thousands of homes to rubble.

When the earth began trembling at dawn, panicked Indonesians scrambled from their beds like they were “being chased by thunder.”

The magnitude 6.3 quake flattened buildings, damaged bridges and roads and knocked out electricity for miles around. Rescuers searched for survivors and hospitals overflowed with the injured. The death toll was expected to rise.

Even though the stricken area is more than 10 miles from the sea, the quake caused widespread panic among residents who feared the region would be hit by a tsunami like the one that struck the northern province of Aceh in 2004, killing more than 200,000 people.


Thousands of people slept in rice fields and along roads Saturday night, some because their homes had been destroyed, others for fear of another quake. Aid officials said they were trying to rush tents, tarps and other supplies to as many as 200,000 survivors. Officials said at least 3,800 buildings were destroyed.

Bantul, near the epicenter, was the hardest-hit town, with at least 2,093 people killed.

Piles of debris blocked streets in the worst-hit neighborhoods. Power blackouts forced searchers to abandon their efforts for the night.

Kasinem, 60, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said she rushed from her house in Bantul when the shaking began.

“It was very hard for me to get out because I couldn’t walk straight,” she said. “When I got to my front yard, the walls of my house collapsed. I didn’t bring anything. I have only the clothes I’m wearing. But thank God my daughter and I are safe.”

In the ancient city of Yogyakarta just north of Bantul, more than 100 people died and the airport was closed because of damage to the runway, hampering the delivery of aid. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the greatest need was for antibiotics and other medicine.

Rescue officials put the death toll at more than 3,700.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono arrived Saturday afternoon with a group of Cabinet ministers to oversee the relief operation.

He ordered the army to help evacuate survivors and assured residents that there would be no tsunami.

In Yogyakarta, Dr. Sardjito General Hospital was flooded with victims, many of whom were being treated in the facility’s corridors and parking lot. The injured continued to arrive in trucks and vans more than 12 hours after the quake.

Jayadi, 70, suffered two broken legs and cuts on his hands when his house in Bantul collapsed around him. Wearing a bloodstained shirt, he was lying on a plastic sheet in the hospital parking lot.

“I was sleeping when the earthquake hit,” he said. “I was on my bed and rubble from the house was everywhere. Our house was flattened. All the houses in the neighborhood were flattened.”

In the Jetis neighborhood of Bantul, where most of the houses were destroyed or damaged, residents camped overnight in a field.

Erawati, 30, whose roof collapsed, built a shelter with neighbors using a plastic sheet. During the night, rain poured down, turning the field muddy and soaking her and her children, ages 7 and 3.

“We could only pray and cry, and it was all dark,” she said. “It was very cold and my children were crying.”

After dawn today, many residents went back to their ruined homes to salvage clothes, gas stoves and cooking utensils. Some took wood from the wreckage and made fires beside the road.

Yogyakarta, one of the country’s oldest cities and a popular tourist destination, is noted for its two historic religious monuments, Borobudur, a Buddhist temple, and Prambanan, a Hindu temple. Initial reports indicated that Prambanan had suffered damage.

The city also is near Indonesia’s most active volcano, Merapi, which has been spewing lava, steam and ash for weeks. It was unclear whether the quake and the volcanic activity were connected.

Thousands of villagers evacuated their homes on the mountain earlier this month, but many had chosen to return.

Indonesia is within the Ring of Fire, the zone of seismic and volcanic activity that roughly surrounds the Pacific Ocean. It includes California and Japan, among other quake-prone areas.

A magnitude 6.7 quake struck today near the Pacific island of Tonga, less than half an hour after a magnitude 6.2 quake off Papua New Guinea. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries and no risk of a Pacific-wide tsunami, Barry Hirshorn, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, told the Associated Press.

Saturday’s temblor was the third major quake to strike Indonesia in 17 months. On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude 9 quake struck off the northern coast of Sumatra island, triggering a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that wiped out half the city of Banda Aceh. The following March, a magnitude 8.7 quake offshore shook the neighboring island of Nias, killing more than 600.

Supplies collected for those calamities but as yet unused were being moved from warehouses in Jakarta and Medan to the scene of the new disaster.

The quake Saturday hit Java, Indonesia’s main island, at 5:54 a.m., as most people were sleeping.

Survivors said the shaking lasted for about a minute and grew in intensity.

“It was like being chased by thunder,” said Rina Neriwati, 48, who works at a hotel in Yogyakarta. “Under my feet, I felt the tremble of the earthquake. I was so afraid.”

Some residents said they were knocked off their feet. One man said he was thrown from his motorcycle.

University student Rizky Aditya Kurniawan, 20, said he tried to rush from his dorm room but the door was stuck. He suffered minor injuries as pieces of the roof fell on his head.

“I was very panicked,” he said. “So I sat in the corner of my bedroom and just prayed to God. And I still could feel the earthquake.”


Jouhana reported from Bantul and Paddock from Jakarta. Special correspondent Sari Sudarsono in Jakarta contributed to this report.



How to help

These agencies are accepting donations:

International Medical Corps: 1919 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 300

Santa Monica, CA 90404

(310) 826-7800

Save the Children: 54 Wilton Road, Westport, CT 06880

(800) 728-3843

Operation USA: 3617 Hayden Ave. Suite A, Culver City, CA 90232

(310) 838-3455

(800) 678-7255

www.opusa.orgWorldVision: Box 9716, Federal Way, WA 98063

(888) 562-4453


Los Angeles Times


Another natural disaster in Indonesia

The deadly earthquake on Java island was the third major temblor to strike Indonesia in 17 months. A magnitude 9.0 quake on Dec. 26, 2004, off Sumatra island caused a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people, and a magnitude 8.7 quake nearby in March 2005 killed hundreds more. The site of Saturday’s quake is near IndonesiaOs most active volcano, Merapi.


Ring of Fire

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because it sits at a boundary where tectonic plates are grinding against each other. The Pacific Plate is being squeezed on all sides, creating a geologically active zone commonly known as the Ring of Fire.