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Earthquake Cripples Indonesian City of Padang

  • Brian Padden

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Foreign emergency rescue teams are working to reach areas in and around Indonesia's port city, Padang, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake Wednesday. The undersea earthquake that hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra originated only 50 kilometers from the city.

Ambulances had trouble getting through the traffic jams in Padang. With the electricity out, the traffic lights were not working. Police had closed off some streets where rescue workers were digging through the rubble. Crowds of bystanders spilled out onto the streets to watch.

In front of a collapsed storefront where the father, mother and two year old sister of Kendi Pratama now lie buried, friends and neighbors are flagging down cars and asking for donations to help the remaining family members. Pratama finds it difficult to speak.

He says he feels sorry today and cannot think straight.

Many houses and offices in Padang suffered only structural damage. But some large commercial buildings, hospitals, hotels, mosques and churches were completely destroyed.

A local middle school is now just a pile of rubble. More than 60 students died when the school crashed down upon them. Indonesian Marine Lieutenant Alberto Nainggolan and his unit have been conducting rescue efforts at the school.

He says today they found only one body alive. Yesterday they found 16 bodies, all dead.

They are racing against time. Soon their mission will change from rescuing survivors to recovering the dead.

As they leave the site for the day, crowds of people descend, looking for anything of value, clothing, copper wire. One man finds a live rabbit.

With electricity out, most local broadcasting has stopped. But not Padang television. While their building was damaged, network employees have moved their equipment outside and are using a generator for power. Budi Syahrial is the news presenter.

He says the building is damaged but the people need information.

Of course, most people in Padang cannot watch the news because they do not have power. But Syahrial says others outside the city can see and need to know the extent of the damage caused by the earthquake.


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