29 March 2005

Quake death toll rising

At least 430 people have been confirmed dead on two islands off the coast of Indonesia after a massive earthquake, officials said on Tuesday.

Budi Atmaji Adiputro, chief of staff at the National Co-ordinating Disaster Relief Agency, said 330 people had been found dead on hard-hit Nias island and more bodies were expected to turn up under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

"I expect the number to increase because to collect bodies we have to sift through the rubble," he said.

The head of the health office in Sumatra's Aceh province, Mulya Hasjmy, said that a disaster taskforce in Simeulue, off the southwest coast of Sumatra island, had accounted for 100 dead.

Indonesia's vice-president Yusuf Kalla earlier said up to 2 000 people could have been killed by buildings collapsing on Nias, but officials who have flown over the area say the damage could be less than expected.


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