Powerful Indonesia Quake Kills Over 3,700

The Associated Press
Sunday, May 28, 2006; 2:51 AM

BANTUL, Indonesia -- Desperate relatives searched rubble for survivors Saturday after a powerful earthquake flattened nearly all the buildings in this rice-farming town while residents slept, killing more than 3,700 people on Indonesia's densely populated Java island.

The magnitude-6.3 quake wounded thousands more and was the nation's worst disaster since the 2004 tsunami. It also triggered fears that a rumbling volcano nearby would erupt.

The earthquake struck at 5:54 a.m. near the famed Borobudur temple complex, caving in roofs and sending concrete walls crashing down. Survivors screamed as they ran from their homes, some clutching bloodied children and the elderly.

The worst devastation was in the town of Bantul, where 80 percent of the homes were destroyed and more than 2,000 people killed. Residents started digging mass graves almost immediately, with family members sobbing and reading the Quran beside rows of corpses awaiting burial beneath a blazing sun.

Village heads recorded their names so the victims could be added to the official death toll. Subarjo, a 70-year-old food vendor, sobbed next to his dead wife, his house destroyed.

"I couldn't help my wife ... I was trying to rescue my children, one with a broken leg, and then the house collapsed," he said. "I have to accept this as our destiny, as God's will."

More than 400 aftershocks hit the region, the strongest a 5.2-magnitude tremor that struck two hours after the initial quake, said Handi, an official at Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency who uses only one name.

The quake was the most recent in a series of disasters to strike Indonesia _ from the 2004 tsunami that ravaged Aceh province to a widening bird flu outbreak to the threat of eruption from nearby Mount Merapi.

The United States responded with an emergency allocation of $2.5 million for assistance to victims.

"Through financial and material support, the United States is assisting with recovery efforts in coordination with Indonesian authorities, and we stand prepared to provide additional assistance as needed," President Bush said in a statement released late Saturday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said U.S. Agency for International Development personnel are in Yogyakarta, the central Indonesian city that bore much of the quake's impact.

Australia said it will send $2.3 million in emergency aid. China offered $2 million in cash and pledged to send rescue teams and materials, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

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