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Indonesia Quake Toll Crosses 1,000


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

We're overwhelmed with victims. That plea for help from the mayor of the Indonesian city Padang, which took the brunt of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake yesterday. The United Nations says the quake has killed more than 1,100 people and hundreds more are believed trapped in the rubble. Today, the region was wrath again by another earthquake.

BLOCK: BBC reporter Rachel Harvey is in Padang. It's a city of about 900,000 people and Rachel describe, if you can, the scale of the destruction you've seen there.

Ms. RACHEL HARVEY (Reporter, BBC): Well, it's kind of patchy. There are some areas that looked, to be honest, as if nothing has happened at all. It's really quite surreal and then five minutes down the road you come to an area that's been absolutely devastated. Where I am now, which is in downtown Padang, there is a big old colonial hotel, an Old Dutch colonial hotel, that I'm looking at right now. And it was once a really beautiful old building, but it's completely wrecked - the central section which is just rubble.

And that really bizarre sense that there were people there not too long ago. I can see a desk that's just kind of hanging out of a gaping hole and there is still a few ornaments on top of it that don't seem to have been disturbed. And there were perhaps as many as 80 people that they still think may be buried under the rubble in this hotel. Apparently there was a children's swimming lesson going on at the time and they haven't accounted for all of those children yet either. There's a lot of activity going on with bulldozers and diggers, just trying to clear away the rubble.

BLOCK: Have Indonesian authorities been able to get rescue workers, heavy equipment in to do those searches that you're talking about?

Ms. HARVEY: They've got some, but clearly not enough. I came in on a flight that was just after a team that brought in some medical staff from Jakarta. I was talking to one of the doctors. They'd brought in with them some basic medical supplies, some high energy biscuits, some water, some baby food. But it was really just a drop in the ocean. They haven't got enough of the aid through here. Now, in part, in fairness, that's because they say they have to make a proper assessment first. There's no point in just flooding this place with aid. They say we've got to make a proper assessment and work out exactly what is needed where. There are still areas that they haven't managed to get to. Now that's because in the aftermath of the earthquake, there were a few localized landslides. So, some roads are still blocked. Some roads and bridges have been damaged. The president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was here earlier today and he said, yes, we do welcome assistance from other countries but Indonesia will take the lead on this. Indonesia will coordinate the humanitarian relief effort.

BLOCK: And are the rescue workers who are there finding some people alive in the rubble?

Ms. HARVEY: Yes, miraculously they still are. I was just talking to a policeman down at one of the worst effected areas. He'd been on the scene all day and he said they had still been pulling some people from the rubble - sadly, of course, also pulling some dead bodies from the rubble. But there were still people they were finding alive. The longer that time goes by, the more unlikely it is in all honesty that more people will be found alive. But they are absolutely determined to try as hard as they can to move that rubble to try and reach anybody that might have even the slightest chance of still surviving to this point.

But it's very weird. Where I'm sitting now, there are scooters, motorbikes and cars going past. So some parts of town, it feels as if life is going on as normal. And of course in other parts, life has been absolutely tragically devastated.

BLOCK: And are you seeing a lot of people seeking shelter just outside in the street, afraid to go back to their homes?

Ms. HARVEY: Definitely. There are many, many hundreds of people that I've seen outside. Some of them say they're just too scared to go back inside. There has been a number of very strong aftershocks here. Now, some people are just too scared, other people of course don't have homes to go to. But there are crowds of people at the major devastated parts of town that are just looking on, watching the rescue operation and perhaps hoping and praying that they might see another miracle, another person pulled alive from the rubble.

BLOCK: Rachel Harvey, thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. HARVEY: It's a pleasure.

BLOCK: That's BBC reporter Rachel Harvey speaking us with from Padang in Western Indonesia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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