Rescuers dig by hand in Indonesia

Rescuers dig by hand in Indonesia

Quake toll rises to 1,100; earth-moving equipment shortage hits rescue efforts

Heavy earth-moving equipment remained in short supply, slowing rescue and recovery efforts on Friday. At one fallen office building, some of the workers who had escaped were digging feverishly with their bare hands.

“My friend is still trapped inside,” said one of the workers, a 20-year-old named Yudi. He had been making photocopies inside when he felt the first tremors of the 7.6-magnitude quake shortly after 5 pm here on Wednesday.

“I ran outside as fast I could. Everyone was panicking, trying to save themselves. But some of us didn’t make it out,” said Yudi.

The death toll rose to 1,100 people, with many hundreds more injured, according to John Holmes, the UN humanitarian coordinator.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs established field operations in Padang, and the office spokeswoman said on Friday afternoon she expected the death toll “to rise significantly.”

Flights into Padang’s airport were jammed on Friday, and aid workers and relief teams waited anxiously at the airport in Jakarta for seats to open up. The national airline, Garuda Indonesia, said it would add more flights in the coming days.

Second quake

On Thursday morning, just as the airport was reopening and rescue teams were setting to work, Padang was rattled by another earthquake, this one registering a magnitude of 6.6. This second quake, which hit about 150 miles south of Padang, damaged hundreds of buildings in the nearby town of Jambi, officials said.

Residents of Padang, desperate for information about their missing family members, gathered at hospitals to view lists of the dead and injured that were posted outside.
On Thursday night, at what remained of the city’s largest hospital, the Dr M Djamil Hospital, a dozen bodies in yellow bags lay on the side of a parking lot. Nearby, a list of casualties was printed on sheets of white paper posted on a board, which people read by holding lighters and matches. Padang’s mayor, Fauzi Bahar, appealed for help, saying that the city was overwhelmed by the dead and injured, and was hobbled by a lack of electricity and clean water. The city, seen on Thursday evening from an approaching airplane, was black except for car headlights and an occasional building with an electric generator.

At the Ambacang Hotel in the city centre, rescue workers were looking for about 80 people still trapped in the large building’s ruins.

The cries of at least four trapped men and women could be heard from inside on Thursday morning, said Efendi, 40, a taxi driver who went to see the hotel after being awakened by the call to prayer. “They were crying, ‘Help me,’ “Efendi said, adding that some volunteers had tried unsuccessfully to reach the voices. “They couldn’t do anything, because there was no tractor.” By evening, workers were able to find a tractor, and they used it to tear down parts of the hotel.

On Tuesday, thousands of miles from Padang, an 8.0-magnitude underwater earthquake created a tsunami that sent walls of water crashing into the islands of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga.

Based on UN reports, police officers and news agencies, at least 169 people were killed by the tsunami: 129 on Samoa, 31 on American Samoa and 9 on Tonga. “Nature has been showing its destructive power in tragic ways,” said Holmes, speaking at a press conference at the United Nations. “There is a lot of emergency relief needed in all these cases,” Holmes added.

Samoan baby named Tsunami

A two-day-old baby boy who survived the giant waves which smashed into Samoa following a massive earthquake off the Pacific island has been named Tsunami in memory of the disaster, reports AFP from Apia. A relative caring for the newborn lifted him above his head and ran for higher ground just as a wall of water hit his house in the village of Saleapaga on the southern coast on Tuesday, Australian Associated Press reported. The man waded through surging waters and floating debris to bring the child safely to his parents Fineaso and Terri Agaalenuu.