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Powerful Indonesian quake kills 32; dozens injured

world Updated: Sep 03, 2009 03:17 IST

AP
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A powerful earthquake rattled southern Indonesia on Wednesday, killing at least 32 people crushed by falling rock or collapsed buildings and sending thousands fleeing outdoors for safety in the middle of a working day. Hospitals quickly filled with scores of injured people after the magnitude 7.0 quake struck off the southern coast of the main island of Java, where most of Indonesia's 235 million people live. The death toll was expected to rise.

"The earthquake was shaking everything in my house very strongly for almost a minute," said Heni Maryani, a resident in the town of Sukabumi. "I grabbed my children and ran out, I saw people were in panic, women were screaming and children were crying." Disaster officials said hundreds of homes and buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged in three districts in densely populated West Java.

The worst report of fatalities was from a village in Cianjur district, where about 30 people were still believed trapped under rocks and dirt, the official Antara news agency reported.

A tsunami warning was issued after the quake struck at 2:55 pm (0755 GMT, 3:55 a.m. EDT), but revoked an hour later. Muharaham Ardan, a university lecturer in the town of Tasikmalaya, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) from the epicenter, said it was the biggest quake he had ever felt.

"We all ran out in panic, we didn't even put our sandals on," he said. "The neighbors were shouting: 'Get out of the house! Get out of the house!"'

Social Affairs Ministry official Mardi said more than 700 houses and buildings were badly damaged and at least 32 people had died. The disaster management agency reported deaths in the districts of Cianjur, Tasikmalaya and Sukabumi in West Java.

Antara reported that 12 families, or about 30 people, were trapped in houses buried by the landslide.