05/27/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Thousands killed and wounded in Java quake

by Mathias Hariyadi

The quake took place this morning around Yogyakarta, flattening houses and affecting thousands of people. The president has called out the army. Hospitals are already full to overflowing: doctors are being forced to operate outside. Mosques and churches are hosting displaced people.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least 1,600 people were killed this morning in an earthquake that struck the whereabouts of Yogyakarta, on the southern coast of the Indonesian island of central Java. The news was broken was the Civil Protection Centre of the Ministry for Social Affairs. But the death toll is sure to rise: already it is feared that there are 2,000 victims. The number of injured is also high – according to the Indonesian Red Cross, around 3,000 people have been found wounded so far.

Eye witnesses told of people fleeing and flattened houses in Bantul area, south of Yogyakarta. The quake, which measured 5.9 on the Richter Scale, was recorded at 5.53 local time; the epicenter was located some 37km away from inhabited areas. The township of Solo was also affected. Although the area struck was on the coast, official sources said the quake did not provoke any tsunami.

Matheus Andre from Wedi, Klaten, said he heard "windows, doors and lights moving" and right after "everything started to shake violently and then everything came apart or fell: motorcycles, walls, computers".

Police said some areas were without power supply and communication lines had been severed. The airport of Yogyakarta was shut down. Streets leading to the coast have also been damaged. The Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has ordered the army to help evacuate victims.

Hospitals in the area are already overloaded: thousands of people have been injured and many are being treated outside because of a lack of beds. There is urgent need of a large quantity of blood transfusions and surgical interventions.

Mosques, churches and hospitals are gearing up to host displaced people. "We are still scared. We don't want to return home," said one man who sought refuge in a Catholic church in Yogyakarta.

Indonesia is in a zone known as the "ring of fire", a narrow corridor winding through the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, which is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

On 26 December 2004, an earthquake off the island of Sumatra generated a tsunami that killed thousands of people in different countries.

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