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Second Quake Slams Indonesia; Hundreds Dead

Rescue workers in Indonesia hurried to clear debris and reach survivors of a pair of powerful earthquakes that struck the island of Sumatra and killed hundreds of people.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the second quake hit Thursday about 135 miles southeast of the coastal city of Padang and measured 6.6.

Earth movers were extricating victims trapped under the rubble from a 7.6 magnitude offshore quake that hit the day before. Terrified residents who spent a restless night sleeping outdoors were jolted by the apparent aftershock Thursday morning.

Authorities said most of the dead came from Padang, a city of 900,000 and the capital of West Sumatra province, while the remaining fatalities were spread across four other districts on the island.

Government figures put the number of dead at 777, with nearly 2,100 people seriously injured. John Holmes, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief, set the death toll at 1,100, and the number was expected to grow.

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More than 500 buildings, including hotels, schools, hospitals and a mall were destroyed or damaged in Padang. Thousands of people were believed to be trapped in the rubble.

Friska Yuniwati, a 30-year-old woman, her face covered in bruises, cried out, "Oh God, help me! Help me!" as she was pulled from the wreckage of her house.

At least 80 people were missing at the city's five-story Ambacang Hotel, said Indra, a paramedic who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

At a collapsed local school, rescue workers said six children had been pulled out alive but four others were found dead and an additional 20 children were still missing. Parents of missing students stayed up all night, waiting for signs of life.

"My daughter's face keeps appearing in my eyes ... my mind. I cannot sleep; I'm waiting here to see her again," a woman who identified herself only as Imelda said, tears rolling down her face. She said her 12-year-old daughter, Yolanda, was in the school for science lessons.

"She is a good daughter and very smart. I really love her. Please, God help her," she said.

Padang's main Djamil Hospital was overwhelmed by the influx of casualties. Dozens of injured people were being treated under tents outside the hospital, which was itself partly damaged.

Major Earthquakes

Map showing the location of a 7.9 magnitude earthquake near American Samoa, in the Pacific Ocean.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono warned that authorities should not underestimate the scope of the disaster and ordered the military to deploy all its crisis centers in Jakarta, West Sumatra and North Sumatra provinces. He said the military would provide earth-moving equipment to clear the rubble.

UNICEF said tens of thousands of people had been made homeless, one-third of them children.

"The needs of thousands of children are vast and urgent. They must have access to clean water, shelter," Angela Kearney, the U.N. body's Indonesian chief, said in a statement.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the second quake damaged 1,100 buildings, including mosques and homes, in the town of Jambi, according to Mayor Hasfiah. He said there were no deaths but dozens of people were injured.

The initial quake on Wednesday was so powerful that it caused buildings to sway hundreds of miles away in Malaysia and Singapore and caused panic among people who feared it would trigger a tsunami.

The temblor severed roads and cut off power and communications to Padang, and the extent of damage in surrounding areas was still unclear.

Indonesia, a poor, sprawling nation, sits on a major geological fault zone and is frequently hit by earthquakes. The latest quakes were along the same fault line that spawned the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations.

In a separate earthquake that hit the Samoan islands on Tuesday, authorities said Thursday that at least 160 people were killed after a series of tsunamis rolled ashore, leveling buildings and washing cars and people out to sea.

From NPR staff and wire reports

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