Jakarta: A powerful earthquake killed at least 35 people and forced thousands to flee homes and offices in Indonesia Wednesday, government agencies said.
The 7.0 magnitude quake, recorded by the US Geological Survey, shook buildings in the capital Jakarta and flattened homes in villages closer to the epicenter in West Java.
Government officials said about 1,300 houses were damaged although local television reports put the number at 3,500. At least 35 people were killed and more than 300 people injured, they said.
More than 40 people were missing after the quake triggered a landslide in the district of Cianjur, about 60 miles south of Jakarta, an official at the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said.
Priyadi Kardono, another official, said the death toll could be much higher as scores of houses and office buildings had collapsed or suffered severe damage. It was proving difficult to contact some of the affected areas.
"Communications with the coastal areas were completely cut, so we don`t know the conditions there," he said. "No reports have come from those areas, although we assume those were the most affected ones. It`s possible the death toll could grow higher."
The health ministry said it was sending medical teams to the affected areas in West Java. State news agency Antara reported that villagers were clearing away the rubble from collapsed buildings to try to find survivors and bodies.
"Many houses are flattened to the ground," said Edi Sapuan in Margamukti village, not far from Tasikmalaya. "Only the wooden houses remain standing. Many villagers are injured, covered in blood."
"We ran as soon as the quake hit. Then five minutes later my house collapsed," Edi said to a news agency.
The quake was felt as far away as Surabaya, Indonesia`s second-largest city, about 500 km (300 miles) northeast of Tasikmalaya, and on the resort island of Bali, about 700 km (420 miles) to the east.
At least 38 people were injured in Jakarta, a health ministry official said.
Hundreds of people sheltered in a military base in Tasikmalaya, fearing the initial temblor would be followed by aftershocks, an official at the disaster management agency said.
Indonesia`s main power, oil and gas, steel, and mining companies with operations in West and Central Java island closest to the quake`s epicenter said they had not been affected and suffered no damage.
Tsunami warnings withdrawn
Indonesia`s 17,000 islands are scattered along a belt of volcanic and seismic activity known as the Pacific "ring of fire," and the area is one of the most quake-prone places on the planet.
More than 170,000 Indonesians were killed or listed missing after a 9.15 magnitude earthquake off Indonesia`s Aceh province on Sumatra triggered a tsunami in December 2004. A total of 230,000 people died in affected Indian Ocean countries.
Local tsunami warnings were issued for coastal areas within several hundred kilometers of the epicenter soon after it struck Wednesday afternoon but were withdrawn about half an hour later.
Indonesia`s seismology agency put the magnitude at 7.3 with the epicenter 142 km (88 miles) southwest of Tasikmalaya. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a widespread tsunami.
Residents in Jakarta said buildings shook and thousands of people streamed onto the streets from office and apartment blocks.
"The chandelier started moving and it started shaking really strong," said Jakarta resident Victor Chan, who lives in a 34th floor apartment. "It lasted quite long. I was really scared and rushed downstairs."
"Everything was shaking and my neighbor shouted `quake, quake`," said Nur Syara, from the 31st floor of the same building. "You could hear the walls creaking. I lay down on the floor. I was scared things would collapse."
A witness in Tasikmalaya said several houses collapsed, including the mayor`s office, and a mosque was damaged. Other buildings were damaged in Bandung, West Java, a city that is home to several universities.
"We were all studying and the building we were in started shaking for a few minutes and the ceiling fell," said a man identifying himself as Evan.