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PADANG, Indonesia – A powerful earthquake killed at least 70 people in western Indonesia on Tuesday and left hospitals overwhelmed with scores of injured, officials said.
The number of dead was expected to rise as a result of the magnitude 6.3 quake on Sumatra island, which was followed by powerful aftershocks.
The quake was felt hundreds of miles away in Singapore, where some office buildings were evacuated, and in neighboring Malaysia.
“Women were crying out in terror. We all just fled as quickly as we could,” said Alpion, a welder in the seaside town of Padang. Along with thousands of others, he was fleeing to higher ground, fearing a possible tsunami. Authorities said the quake did not cause any tidal activity.
Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi told reporters at least 70 people had been killed by the quake.
Local government spokesman Hasrul Piliang said the number of dead “would likely rise” because tolls from remote areas were still being collected and there were reports of others trapped under debris.
The worst-hit area appeared to be in and around Solok, a bustling town close to the epicenter of the quake on Sumatra’s western coast, which was spared destruction in the 2004 tsunami disaster.
At least two young children and a teacher were killed when a two-story building crashed onto a playground in Solok, said police spokesman Supriadi, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name. Another woman died at a market.
Town Mayor Samsu Rahim told el-Shinta radio that three others were burned alive when their collapsed home burst into flames.
Hospitals were struggling to cope with a flood of patients, many suffering cuts and broken bones, Supriadi said. At least one hospital was evacuated.
U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck 20 miles below Solok, on Sumatra’s western coast. It was followed by several strong aftershocks that sent residents pouring into the streets, shattered windows and toppled power lines.
The temblor and at least one of the aftershocks was felt in Singapore, 265 miles from the epicenter, forcing the evacuation of several older office buildings, TV station Channel NewsAsia reported.
In Malaysia’s southern coastal city of Johor, citizens fled offices, buildings and shopping centers.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
In December 2004, a massive earthquake struck off Indonesia’s Sumatra island and triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people, including 131,000 people in Indonesia’s Aceh province alone. A tsunami off Java island last year killed nearly 5,000.Read More