Image: Residents walk through an area damaged by an earthquake in Padang
Dita Alangkara  /  AP
Residents walk through an earthquake damaged area in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia.
updated 10/1/2009 12:45:05 PM ET 2009-10-01T16:45:05

Rescue workers pulled victims, some screaming in pain, from the heavy rubble of buildings felled by a powerful earthquake that killed at least 531 people. The death toll was expected to rise.

The brunt of Wednesday’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake, which originated in the sea off Sumatra island, appeared to have been borne by Padang town where 376 people were killed. Four other districts accounted for the remaining deaths.

The region was jolted by another powerful earthquake Thursday morning, causing damage but no reported fatalities.

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. Workers used backhoes to shift debris.

“Oh God, help me! help me!” Friska Yuniwati, a 30-year-old woman, screamed in pain, as she was carried to an ambulance in downtown Padang. She had been pulled out minutes earlier from the rubble of a house, her face covered in bruises and eyes shut.

'Prepared for the worst'
Padang’s state-run Djamil Hospital was overwhelmed by the influx of victims and families. Dozens of injured people were being treated under tents outside the hospital, which was itself partly damaged.

“Let’s not underestimate (the disaster). Let’s be prepared for the worst. We will do everything we can to help the victims,” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in Jakarta before flying to Padang, a coastal city of 900,000 and capital of West Sumatra province.

A total of 531 people were confirmed dead and 440 were seriously injured, the Social Affairs Ministry’s crisis center said. Thousands were believed trapped, said Rustam Pakaya, head of the Health Ministry’s crisis center.

One focus for emergency workers was a collapsed 4-story concrete building in downtown Padang, where 30 children had been taking classes when the quake struck. Four students were found alive and six bodies were dug from the rubble. Dozens were missing, said Jamil, a volunteer. “It’s getting very difficult now to find more victims,” he said.

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.

Missing and trapped
In another building, rescue workers passed a plastic bottle of water through an opening in the rubble to a person trapped underneath.

Video: Race on to rescue trapped victims The president ordered the military to deploy emergency response teams from Jakarta, West Sumatra and North Sumatra provinces. He said the military will provide earth-moving equipment to clear the rubble.

SurfAid, a New Zealand-based medical aid group, said its program director David Lange narrowly escaped death when he fled the Ambacang Hotel minutes before it collapsed.

“People are trapped and screaming for help but they are below huge slabs which will take heavy equipment to move,” Lange was quoted as saying in a statement by SurfAid.

“I saw dozens of the biggest buildings collapsed in town. Most of the damage is concentrated in the commercial center market, which was fully packed,” he said.

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

Terrified residents who spent a restless night, many sleeping outdoors, were jolted by the new quake Thursday morning.

Tsunami fears
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit about 150 miles south of Padang. It damaged 1,100 buildings, including mosques and homes, in the town of Jambi, according to Mayor Hasfiah, who uses only one name like many Indonesians. He said there were no deaths but dozens of people were injured.

The quake was so powerful that it caused buildings to sway hundreds of miles away in Malaysia and Singapore. In Padang, children screamed as thousands of frantic residents fled in cars and motorbikes, honking horns. They feared the quake would trigger a tsunami, but no giant waves struck.

The quake 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.

Geologists said the Indonesia quakes were not related to another deadly quake Tuesday that hit islands in the South Pacific.

Padang’s mayor appealed for assistance on Indonesian radio station el-Shinta.

“We are overwhelmed with victims and ... lack of clean water, electricity and telecommunications,” Mayor Fauzi Bahar said. “We really need help. We call on people to come to Padang to evacuate bodies and help the injured.”

Destruction everywhere
Hundreds of people were trapped under collapsed buildings in Padang alone, including a four-star hotel, he said. Other collapsed or seriously damaged buildings included hospitals, mosques, a school and a mall.

"I was studying math with my friends when suddenly a powerful earthquake destroyed everything around me," an unidentified boy told the TVOne broadcaster. He escaped out of the top floor just as the three-story structure, used for after-school classes, crumpled.

Finance minister Sri Mulyani said the government has allocated $25 million for a two-month emergency response. She said the earthquake will seriously affect Indonesia’s economic growth, because West Sumatra is a main producer of crude palm oil.

“This region has been damaged seriously, including its infrastructure,” Mulyani said.

More on: Indonesia

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Deadly earthquake hits Indonesia

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  1. An Indonesian young boy hunts for useable metal at a collapsed market in Padang, Indonesia, on Tuesday, Oct. 6. (Mast Irham / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A woman wipes away her tears as she tries to salvage her belongings in her damaged house at Koto Tinggi village in Padang. (Crack Palinggi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Locals from an Indonesian village unload humanitarian aid delivered by "Save The Children" six days after an 7.6-magnitude quake toppled thousands of buildings. (Wong Maye-E / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Homes are perched on the edge of a cliff created by a landslide triggered by the earthquake in West Sumatra province. (Enny Nuraheni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Survivors inside their damaged house near the Padang Alai village area in Pariama. (Nicky Loh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. U.S. soldiers erect a makeshift tent for their medical support base to give assistance to quake victims near the M. Jamil hospital in Padang. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A survivor walks with a tub of water in a village hit by a landslide which occured when an earthquake hit the area of Kapalo Koto in Pariaman, West Sumatra province Monday, Oct. 5. Rescuers and aid workers fanned out into the hills of Sumatra island, where hundreds of people were buried in landslides triggered by a devastating earthquake. (Nicky Loh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Earthquake survivors search for their belongings in an landslide area at Cumanak Village in Pariaman, West Sumatera, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 5. (Bagus Indahono / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aid workers carry relief goods to be distributed to landslide victims in a village in Pariaman, Indonesia's West Sumatra province, on Monday, Oct. 5. (Erik De Castro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A woman injured in the earthquake lies in a bed at a hospital in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia. The U.N. estimates that 1,100 people died in the earthquake. (Binsar Bakkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Japanese rescue team members search for victims buried by a quake-triggered landslide in Jumanak in Padang Pariaman district, Indonesia. (Achmad Ibrahim / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Visitors take a look at a list of quake victims at Lubuk Laweh village in Pariaman, West Sumatra. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Students attend a class in a makeshift classroom set up by UNICEF in Padang, Indonesia. (Wong Maye-e / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A man prays in front of a statue of Mary and Baby Jesus in a Catholic church which was affected by the earthquake on Sunday, Oct. 4, in Padang, Indonesia. With no outside help in sight, villagers used their bare hands Sunday to dig out corpses, four days after landslides triggered by a huge earthquake obliterated four hamlets in western Indonesia. (Binsar Bakkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. This aerial picture shows damaged houses in Pariaman on Sunday after the September 30 7.6-magnitude quake hit West Sumatra near the city of Padang. Rescuers held out scant hope for quake survivors, handing recovery teams the grim task of retrieving the decaying bodies of some 4,000 victims believed buried in rubble. (Adek Berry / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Relief workers and Indonesian earthquake survivor seek shelter from heavy rain at a major landslide area in Pariaman, West Sumatra, Indonesia, on Sunday. (How Hwee Young / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A boy crawls under overhanging rocks from what used to be a market on Sunday in Padang, Indonesia. (Binsar Bakkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A woman washes her clothes in a stream as running water is still not available to many, on Sunday in Padang. (Wong Maye-e / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. An aerial picture shows an area after landslides hit three villages following recent earthquakes in Pariaman on Sunday. (Adek Berry / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Indonesian rescue workers carry the body of an earthquake victim at a village in the Sumatran town of Tandikat on Satruday, October 3. (Manan Vatsyayana / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Indonesian army and rescue workers remove debris as they attempt to free dead bodies from rubble at the Ambacang Hotel on Saturday in Padang. (Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

    Hands protrude from rubble as rescue efforts continue on Saturday in Padang, Indonesia. (Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A tear rolls down the face of a weeping boy as he lies inside a makeshift tent erected outside the partially earthquake-destroyed M Djamil hospital in Padang. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. An Indonesian woman shows a photograph of her missing family member in the Sumatran city of Padang on Saturday. (Roslan Rahman / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Nine-year-old Indah, who has two broken legs, screams in agony as she is consoled by her grandmother inside a makeshift tent erected outside the partially destroyed M Djamil hospital in Padang. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. People gather at a river as their main source of water as running water is not available in most parts of the island on Saturday in Padang. (Binsar Bakkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. An elderly Indonesian woman sits outside her damged house in the Sumatran town of Sicincin on Saturday. (Manan Vatsyayana / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A damaged mosque in Padang, Indonesia's West Sumatra province Friday, Oct. 2. Rescuers dug feverishly on Friday through the rubble of a school and other buildings toppled by an earthquake in the Indonesian port of Padang, but few victims were being found alive two days after the tremor. (Erik De Castro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Family members break into tears as they recognize their dead relatives at the M. Djamil general hospital in the Sumatran city of Padang after a 7.6-magnitude quake toppled buildings in the area. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Villagers move their belongings from the ruins of their house in Pariaman, a coastal town in the West Sumatra province of Indonesia. (Crack Palinggi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. An Indonesian policeman stands in front of the ruins of the Ambacang hotel as the rubble is searched for victims in the Sumatran city of Padang. (Adek Berry / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Ratna Kurnia Sari, an Indonesian woman, is rescued out from the rubble of a collapsed building in the Sumatran city of Padang. (Roslan Rahman / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A view of houses in a village destroyed by an earthquake in Lima Koto in the outskirts of Padang, Indonesia's West Sumatra province. (Erik De Castro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. A survivor sits up in bed as he is treated in the M. Djamil General Hospital. (Getty Images / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. The ruins of Ambacang Hotel is lit against the dask sky as rescue workers search for survivors. (Binsar Bakkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. A second powerful earthquake rocked western Indonesia on Oct. 1 as rescuers struggled to reach survivors of the previous day's quake, which killed hundreds of people and left thousands trapped under collapsed buildings. A boy stands near one of flattened buildings in Padang, West Sumatra. (Dita Alangkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Indonesian soldiers excavate into the wreckage of a building to search for victims and survivors in Padang. (Adek Berry / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Long lines form at gas stations in Padang. (Roslan Rahman / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Indonesian rescuers struggle to reach survivors in Padang. A second earthquake with a 6.8 magnitude rocked western Indonesia on Oct. 1, a day after the region was devastated by an undersea quake of 7.6 magnitude. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Earthquake victim lays down at Siti Rahma Hospital. (Bagus Indahono / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Residents stands near the bodies of earthquake victims at a hospital in Padang on Indonesia's Sumatra island. (Stringer/indonesia / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Residents walk through an area damaged earthquake. (Dita Alangkara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. A man comforts a relative after the Indonesian earthquake, which came a day after a powerful quake in the South Pacific hurled a massive tsunami at the shores of Samoa and American Samoa. (Muhammad Fitrah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. People stand near a collapsed shopping mall in Padang. Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told local television that a mall and two hospitals had collapsed. (Muhammad Fitrah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. A man carries an injured person in front of a collapsed university building. (Muhammad Fitrah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. An injured girl cries during an evacuation after the quake. (Muhammed Fitrah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. A woman walks in front of a collapsed shopping mall. The magnitude 7.6 quake occurred along the same fault line that spawned the massive 2004 Asian tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries. (Muhammad Fitrah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. An Indonesian woman is carried as she cries in mourning after identifying a dead relative at a hospital in Padang. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Residents flee after the quake hits in Padang, west Sumatra. The temblor started fires, severed roads and cut off power and communications to Padang, a coastal city of 900,000. (Fitra Yogi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. In footage braodcast by a local TV station, frightened residents run down a street in Padang, Indonesia, after a powerful earthquake struck off Sumatra island on Wednesday, Sept. 30. The ground shook so hard that people sat down on the streets to avoid falling over.

    The temblor triggered landslides and trapped thousands under collapsed buildings. Dozens of bodies have been recovered. (TV One via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Indonesian soldiers look on as an earthmover removes the rubble of a destroyed building in Padang. (Achmad Ibrahim / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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