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Indonesian Earthquake Kills More Than 700


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Indonesian officials say the death toll from Wednesday's powerful earthquake continues to rise, and thousands remain trapped under collapsed buildings on the island of Sumatra. So far at least 770 people are confirmed dead and the numbers are likely to climb higher as rescue workers search for more victims beneath the rubble of destroyed buildings.

This was the chaotic scene in the city of Padang in Sumatra as terrified residents ran for safety when the 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck on Wednesday. Less than 24 hours later another major earthquake shook communities in another part of the island Thursday, triggering more panic among local residents and tourists.

"I was just finished taking a shower, and felt the floor shaking of the little bungalow," said German tourist Christian Effenberger. "And I ran out to a little place where everyone had already been summoned to get out of the houses and then we felt the sandy floor shaking in waves."

Indonesian television stations broadcast images of the devastation showing scores of collapsed buildings, burning houses and rescue workers scrambling to find survivors beneath mounds of rubble. Crews were able to pull some people from the debris alive.

So far, most of the deaths have been reported in this city of 900,000 residents. Officials say at least 500 buildings were flattened by the quake.

Indonesia's president says the government is responding quickly to the disaster.

"We are working on the emergency action plan," said Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "I have communicated with the Social Welfare Minister, Army Chief, and the Health Minister. This is important because we need doctors and paramedics to be sent. "

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The two earthquakes in Indonesia follow a strong quake and tsunami that hit the South Pacific islands of Samoa and American Samoa. Seismologist Stuart Sipkin with the US National Earthquake Center says he's not surprised by the string of quakes in these regions.

"The area around Samoa and the area off the coast of Sumatra are both highly seismically active, they do tend to cluster and so it's very often you'll see large earthquakes happening in a short period of time," he explained.

Indonesian officials say they expect the numbers of dead and injured to climb in the coming days because of the large amount of destruction in very populated areas. They say their priorities now are saving lives and getting emergency aid to communities that need it the most.

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