Thursday, September 3, 2009



Indonesian police and soldiers search for quake victims during an evacuation at Cikangkareng village in Cibinong on Sept 3, 2009
Rescue efforts are being hampered as roads have been badly damaged

Rescuers in Indonesia are searching the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors after a powerful earthquake, with the toll expected to rise.

At least 44 people are confirmed dead and thousands of homes ruined after the 7.0-magnitude quake hit on Wednesday.

More than 300 people have been injured and dozens are still missing.

Indonesian officials say heavy rescue equipment has arrived in the Javanese city of Cianjur, where many people are feared buried by a landslide.

Elsewhere, police, military personnel and villagers are using their bare hands to try to reach survivors buried in the rubble.

Desperate search

Thousands of buildings have collapsed in Cianjur, about 100km (62 miles) south of Jakarta, and the nearby town of Tasikmalaya.

Priyadi Kardono, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said the toll could "change significantly" given the scale of damage, reports Reuters news agency.

Java map

"We are still searching for the survivors who might be buried under their houses or buildings," another disaster management agency employee, Maman Susanto, told AFP news agency.

"About 18,000 houses and buildings have been damaged," he said.

Rescue efforts are being hampered as several roads have been badly damaged, the BBC's Karishma Vaswani reports from the area.

As a result, heavy digging equipment has not reached the hardest-hit villages, she adds.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is due to visit the area later on Thursday.

Communications links to settlements on the south coast were broken by the quake, so the extent of damage and casualties is not yet known.

Fear and uncertainty

Villagers walk among rocks from landslide triggered by earthquake in West Java, Indonesia, 3 September 2009

About 5,000 people have reportedly sought shelter in makeshift tents. "They have taken refuge not only because their houses were ruined, but also because they fear there will be aftershocks," said local official Obar Sobarna.

The quake epicentre was about 115km off the south coast of Java, near Tasikmalaya.

Mudslides have inundated homes, collapsed rooftops and damaged properties in Tasikmalaya, including the mayor's home and a mosque.

The tremors were felt in the capital, Jakarta, 200km to the north, where hundreds fled into the streets from offices and shops.

A local tsunami alert was issued but revoked shortly afterwards.

The quake was also felt 500km away from its epicentre in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, and on the resort island of Bali.

In December 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people around Asia.

Our correspondent says memories of the 2004 disaster are still fresh in the minds of people.

She says the Indonesian government has implemented an early warning system for tsunamis since then, but it is not fully operational yet.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, one of the most active areas for earthquakes and volcanic activity in the world.