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Indonesia quake toll to rise

SUKABUMI, Sep 3 – A major 7.0-magnitude quake rocked Indonesia Wednesday, killing at least 35 people and destroying dozens of homes across the country’s densely populated heartland, officials said.

The quake struck off the island of Java less than 200 kilometres south of Jakarta at a depth of 49 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

Thousands of people fled homes, shopping centres and office towers across West Java province and in the capital Jakarta, where high-rise buildings swayed violently for at least a minute around 0800 GMT.

The death toll stood at 35 while 422 were injured, health ministry crisis centre chief Rustam Pakaya said.

More than 40 people were trapped and feared dead in the district of Cibinong, south of Jakarta, he added.

Earlier, disaster management agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono told AFP 5,000 people fled their homes fearing aftershocks in the district of Cianjur.

He added that the houses of some of those who died in Cianjur were buried under a landslide.

"This is from the areas were the communication links are still good but there are other areas which are more remote that we haven’t been able to reach at all. We don’t have any information on what’s happening there," Kardono said.

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"It was very scary. The floor was swaying and I heard loud sounds from the upper floor, like something was going to collapse," student Rini, 18, said after she fled the Grand Indonesia shopping centre in the heart of Jakarta.

"People were screaming and I quickly took off my high heels and ran as fast as I could to get out of the mall."

Dozens of buildings collapsed in the towns of Tasikmalaya and Sukabumi, officials said.

A 13-year-old girl crushed by a collapsing wall was among those killed in Tasikmalaya district, local police said.

"All along the road from the station to my home the houses have partly collapsed, some have roofs hanging down and/or walls that are broken. Nearly everything is damaged," said a local police officer, who did not give his name.

"Because of all the aftershocks people were standing by the roadside but they’ve returned home now to break the Ramadan fast," he said.

A tsunami warning was issued and withdrawn after officials assessed there was no danger.

"We issued a tsunami warning but we’ve removed it after some observation," Meteorology and Geophysics Agency technical chief Suharjono said.

"There was a tsunami in the sea off Tasikmalaya but it was only 20 centimetres (eight inches) high, it was insignificant," he added.

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The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said no significant tsunami was generated.

Dorus Susanto, 26, a receptionist at a hotel in the town of Batu Karas on Java’s southern coast, said people ran outside as part of the hotel’s roof collapsed.

"The mosque has been damaged and a few houses have been damaged too," Susanto said.

Panicked worshippers in Tasikmalaya were sent fleeing from a mosque, which was left cracked and teetering, the Antara news agency reported.

A 7.7-magnitude offshore quake triggered a tsunami off southern Java in 2006, killing 596 people and displacing some 74,000.

Indonesia sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where several tectonic plates converge.

A quake off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra in 2004 triggered a catastrophic tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people around Asia, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

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