Indonesia Earthquake: Rescue Teams Scramble for Survivors

As rescue teams raced against time to help thousands of victims believed to be still trapped under the rubble left by the devastating earthquake that hit West Sumatra, aid began pouring in on Friday from all over the globe as foreign nations donated financial aid and deployed disaster response teams. On Friday, search-and-rescue workers saved two young women from the wreckage of what had been a foreign-language college. They had been trapped for more than 40 hours. At the site of the toppled Ambacang Hotel, Richard Erlangga, a member of the local disaster management coordinating team, said that by 7 p.m. at least six of the estimated 60 people buried under the rubble were confirmed to be alive. A Japanese team with sniffer dogs and rescuers from Switzerland had already joined the search at the hotel. Indonesian Red Cross chief Marie Muhammad said several volunteer teams from Japan, Switzerland and Australia had already landed in Padang. Others were on the way. The Disaster Relief Center in Padang said that by sundown on Friday, 451 bodies had been found across West Sumatra. But while massive rescue efforts were under way in Padang, reports were filtering in that in the neighboring district of Pariaman, closer to the epicenter of the earthquake, four hamlets with some 300 people had been buried by landslides. Reporting from the site, state-run Antara news agency said Pulau Koto, Lubuk Laweh, Sumanak and Tandikek appeared to have been entombed and that local villagers were continuing the hunt for survivors without the help of heavy machinery or outside aid. At least 13 bodies have been recovered so far. A 36-member Australian rescue team and approximately 20 Australian Defense Force medics and engineers are expected to arrive in Jakarta on Saturday. A team of Korean rescuers arrived late on Friday in Jakarta. On Thursday, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta dispatched a six-person emergency team to Padang to inspect damage and plan how to help those in need, as well as assist any Australians caught up in the disaster. Australian emergency supplies, including medical kits, blankets and tents, are also being rushed to Sumatra. Australia has also provided 250,000 Australian dollars ($217,000) to Muslim organization Muhammadiyah to support its medical teams and humanitarian operations. Singapore is sending heavy machinery and 42 members from the Singapore Civil Defense Force, as well as a search and rescue team. Two Russian IL-76 transport planes were sent from Moscow, one carrying logistics and medical equipment and the other carrying a team of doctors and nurses as well as a search and rescue crew. One of them had to land at the airport in Medan, North Sumatra, on Friday because Minangkabau International Airport in Padang was too clogged. Switzerland promised to send around 120 rescue specialists, while Freeport Indonesia, the Indonesian subsidiary of giant gold and copper miner Freeport McMoRan, was flying a team of four rescue operation specialists from its Grasberg mine in Papua to Padang, said its corporate communications manager, Boediman Moerdijat. Just hours after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Thursday that Indonesia was open to international aid, pledges of disaster relief began pouring in from around the world. The president spent part of Friday touring the disaster zone before returning to Jakarta. European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso pledged 3 million euros ($4.4 million), while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country would provide $3 million. China is sending $500,000 in donations to help quake victims, said China’s ambassador to Indonesia, Zhang Qiyue, while China’s Red Cross Society donated $50,000 to its Indonesian counterpart. The Indonesian Red Cross also received 100,000 Australian dollars from Canberra for emergency response operations, including medical kits, and Unicef is sending an assessment team and preparing aid.

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