Strong Indonesia quake kills nearly 2,000

Updated: 2006-05-27 17:13
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A powerful earthquake flattened buildings in central Indonesia early Saturday, killing nearly 2,000 people and injuring thousands more in the country's worst disaster since the Asian tsunami, officials said.

Strong Indonesia quake kills nearly 2,000
Victims are treated outside a hospital after a strong earthquake in Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia, Saturday, May 27, 2006. A powerful earthquake rocked Indonesia's Central Java province early Saturday, flattening buildings and killing at least 211 people, hospitals and officials said. Scores of other people were injured. [AP]

The magnitude 6.2 quake struck near the ancient city of Yogyakarta around dawn as many people slept, causing death and damage in many nearby towns.

Roads and bridges were destroyed, hindering efforts to get the wounded to hospitals. Some phone lines also were cut.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the army to help evacuate victims, as panicked residents ran into the smoldering streets, many clutching young children. He said he would head to the disaster zone in Central Java province later Saturday.

Nine hours after the quake struck, the number of dead stood at 1,987, said Sopar Djaya, an official in the Social Affairs Ministry's task force office, with two thirds of the fatalities in the devastated district of Bantul.

"The numbers just keep rising," said Arifin Muhadi of the Indonesian Red Cross, adding that nearly 2,900 people were hurt in the disaster — the worst to hit the sprawling archipelago since the 2004 tsunami.

Muhadi's death toll stood at around 1,400, but he said his agency had not been able to contact authorities in some of the hard hit areas.