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Second Earthquake Hits Indonesia, Red Cross Searches for Survivors
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By Abi Weaver, International Communications, American Red Cross
October 1, 2009

A second quake shook the Indonesian island of Sumatra, one day after the first devastating earthquake left more than 500 dead and thousands more trapped. Today's quake, measuring 6.6 in magnitude, struck early this morning approximately 180 miles from the epicenter of the first tremor.

On Sept. 30, just after 5 p.m. local time, an earthquake, measuring 7.6 on the same scale, shook Indonesia’s western coastline, setting off a destructive chain of events – buildings caught fire, homes collapsed, airports closed, and residents and tourists became trapped. In Padang alone, at least 500 homes are caved in.

“Communications have been disrupted and electricity has failed,” said Alex Mahoney, manager of disaster programs in Asia with the American Red Cross. “The Indonesian Red Cross is directing this relief operation exclusively by hand-held radio.”

Immediately after the first earthquake, authorities issued a tsunami warning, and the Indonesian Red Cross (also known as Palang Merah Indonesia or PMI) began helping residents evacuate to higher ground. After the warning was lifted, local volunteers began assisting with search and rescue, and conducting damage assessments.

A soldier and volunteers search for victims under a collapsed four-story building in Padang on Indonesia's Sumatra island.
A soldier and volunteers search for victims under a collapsed four-story building in Padang on Indonesia's Sumatra island.
Photo Credit: Crack Palinggi/Reuters, Courtesy of www.alertnet.org
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Today, the Indonesian Red Cross has dispatched nearly 300 volunteers, including 45 doctors to the quake zone to offer first aid services, shelter and other assistance for those in need. Thousands of relief supplies, such as tarps, blankets and sarongs, are also being moved from warehouses in Jakarta to Padang.

With this newest tragedy, the global Red Cross network is now responding to five near-simultaneous disasters in Asia Pacific.

  • Oct. 1: a second major earthquake shook Jambi province in Indonesia, 180 miles from the epicenter of yesterday‘s quake
  • Sept. 30: a 7.6-magintude earthquake was recorded off the West coast of Indonesia, about 30 miles from Padang, the capital of West Sumatra
  • Sept. 29: An 8.3-magnitude earthquake was followed by a tsunami, affecting the Pacific islands of Samoa, Tonga and America Samoa
  • Sept. 26: Typhoon Ketsana made its first landfall and dumped torrential rains in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos

Sadly, the region is living up to its reputation as one of the most disaster-prone areas in the world. The death toll in Indonesia following the two earthquakes is expected to rise as rescue operations continue.

“Loss of life is always tragic but investment in preparedness and early warning systems, including the training of volunteers as first responders, has clearly helped minimize the loss of life across the four disaster areas,” said Mahoney.

The American Red Cross has been in close contact with the Indonesian Red Cross throughout the tremors and stands ready to support the relief operation should international assistance be requested. More than 300 employees work for the American Red Cross in Indonesia where they:

  • support long-term recovery programs related to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami
  • help the local Red Cross and families prepare for future emergencies

For inquiries about relatives living and who have citizenship in Indonesia, please be patient and call repeatedly until the lines clear or contact other family members who live nearby. Telephone, Internet and other communication lines are often disrupted in times of disaster. People trying to locate U.S. citizens living or traveling in Indonesia should contact the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services, at 1-888-407-4747 or 202-647-5225.

To arrange media interviews with an American Red Cross spokesperson in Indonesia about the local earthquake response as well as other international disaster responses, please call 202-303-5551.

You can help the victims of countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Donations to the International Response Fund can be sent to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013 or made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at www.redcross.org.

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