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Published: Friday, 5/26/2006

More than 100 die in Indonesian earthquake

ASSOCIATED PRESS

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia -- A powerful earthquake rocked Indonesia's Central Java province early Saturday, killing at least 104 people and injuring scores, hospitals said. Buildings were flattened.

In the chaos that followed the magnitude 6.2 quake, rumors of an impending tsunami sent thousands of people fleeing to higher ground in cars and motorbikes. The city is around 18 miles from the sea. But Japan's Meteorological Agency said there was no danger of a tsunami from the quake, and no warnings have been issued.

The quake also triggered heightened activity in the region's deadly Mount Merapi volcano, which has been spewing out clouds of hot ash, gas and lava for several weeks, a scientist said.

The quake struck at 5:54 a.m. 15 miles southwest of the city of Yogyakarta, causing damage and casualties there and in at least two other nearby population centers, officials said.

At the city's Sardjito hospital, there were at least 36 dead bodies, a staffer at the morgue said. At least 58 other corpses were laying in Bethseda hospital, Subandi, a morgue official there said. Bantul hospital said it had at least 10 bodies

"Some people are in critical condition," said Subandi, who goes by a single name. "We are overwhelmed with bodies."

Witnesses at hospitals in the city said hundreds of injured people were arriving for emergency treatment, many with broken bones and cuts.

TV footage showed damaged hotels and government buildings, and several collapsed buildings.

The quake cracked the runway in Yogyakarta's airport, closing it to aircraft until at least Sunday while inspections take place, Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa said.

Electricity and communications were also down in parts of Yogyakarta, police said.

"It felt really powerful, and the whole building shook," said Narman, a receptionist at a hotel in the city who goes by one name. "Everyone ran from their rooms."

The quake's epicenter was close to the Mount Merapi volcano, which has been rumbling for weeks and sending out large clouds of hot gas and ash. Activity increased as a result of the temblor, with one eruption coming soon after the volcano sent debris some 2 miles down its western flank, said Subandrio, a vulcanologist monitoring the peak.

"The quake has disturbed the mountain," he said.

There were no reports of injuries as a result of the eruption.

Activity at Mount Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has picked up in recent weeks and almost all villagers living near the danger zone have been evacuated.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

A magnitude 9.1 earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004, under the sea off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra Island triggered a tsunami that killed more than 131,000 people in nearby Aceh province, and more than 100,000 others in nearly a dozen other countries.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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