Officials: Death Toll Could Reach Thousands After Indonesian Quakes

By: (CNN)
By: (CNN)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) — Fear and devastation intensified on the Indonesian island of Sumatra as a killer earthquake’s punch was seconded Thursday by yet another strong jolt.

At least 529 people died the Indonesian Social Affairs Ministry said Thursday and officials, with little information in hand about the missing, predicted casualties could climb into the thousands.

The 6.8 magnitude quake Thursday hit South Sumatra at 8:52 a.m. local time (9:52 p.m. Wednesday ET), about 89 miles (143 km) from Bengkulu, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. An earlier quake Wednesday was 7.6 magnitude.

The worst hit was the West Sumatra capital of Padang, where 376 people perished, he said.

Rustam Pakaya, the head of the Ministry of Health’s crisis center said that thousands of people may be trapped by collapsed buildings and houses.

Officials were expecting casualties to surpass those of the massive Yogyakarta earthquake three years ago, given the intensity and the spread of the damage this week. The second set of tremors Thursday only magnified the scope of the disaster.

In May 2006, a 6.3 magnitude quake centered in the central Java city of Yogyakarta quake killed more than 5,000 people and triggered fears of an eruption of a nearby volcano.

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