Earthquake kills thousands in Indonesia

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Location of earthquake.

An earthquake measuring magnitude 6.3 struck Indonesia's Yogyakarta and Central Java early on Saturday morning, killing at least 5,427 people, and injuring thousands more. Severe damage has been reported in the city of Yogyakarta, with over three thousand buildings having collapsed and electricity and communications links broken. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports that the quake struck at 5:54 a.m. local time (2254 UTC Friday) and the epicentre was offshore, approximately 25 km (15 miles) southwest of the city.

Nearby Mount Merapi, which has seen increased activity in recent weeks, had emitted a large cloud of purple smoke and ash shortly before the earthquake, and vulcanologists have confirmed that the earthquake has increased the volcano's activity. Indonesia lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a zone containing the boundaries of tectonic plate that encircles the basin of the Pacific Ocean, and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Hospital efforts were being hampered by aftershocks, which the USGS have measured as being up to 4.8 in magnitude, and currently by a lack of doctors, beds, and medical supplies. The Indonesian Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa has said that the earthquake has damaged the Yogyakarta airport runway, closing it to air traffic until at least Sunday.

Many countries have offered aid to the devastated region, with the United Kingdom offering three million pounds ($5,600,000 U.S), Australia offering three million Australian dollars ($2,270,000 U.S) China offering two million U.S dollars, and the United States, European Union, Japan, and UNICEF offering further immediate aid. The Red Cross, Red Crescent, OXFAM as well as UNICEF have been providing tents and emergency supplies to the victims.

Many residents spent the night outdoors, either afraid to return for fear of more aftershocks, or because they had lost their homes. In the Bantul district, up to 80% of houses were destroyed, leaving an estimated 150,000 homeless. The Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, visited the disaster area and has called in the army to assist in rescue efforts.

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