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Hunt for buried survivors after Indonesia earthquake

Hunt for buried survivors after Indonesia earthquake

Rescuers scrambled to find buried survivors Saturday after a powerful earthquake on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi killed dozens, injured hundreds and left more feared trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

At least 45 people died after the 6.2-magnitude earthquake that struck in the early hours of Friday, sparking panic among residents of the island, which was hit by a 2018 earthquake and tsunami disaster that killed thousands.

Dozens of bodies were pulled from under collapsed buildings in Mamuju, a city of about 110,000 people in West Sulawesi province, while others died south of the area after the earthquake.

"The latest data we have is 45" dead, said Arianto, from the rescue agency in Mamuju, who, like many Indonesians, has only one name.

The death toll rose from 42 on Friday night.

Authorities have not given a figure for the number of residents who could be trapped under level buildings, including a hospital that collapsed with more than a dozen patients and staff inside.

At least one hotel partially collapsed, while the regional governor's office also suffered significant damage.

About 15,000 residents have fled to temporary shelters and nearly 190 people are being treated for serious injuries, local authorities said.

- 'Sincere solidarity' -

The Pope said that he was "saddened" to learn of the earthquake.

"His Holiness of him Pope Francis expresses his sincerest solidarity with all those affected by this natural disaster," the Vatican said in a statement.

"He prays for the repose of the deceased, the healing of the wounded and the comfort of all who suffer."

Footage from Friday's scene showed residents trying to flee Mamuju in cars and motorcycles as they passed corrugated metal roofs and other building debris strewn along the roadside.

But landslides caused by heavy rains and the earthquake blocked the main access road to the coastal city.

The meteorological agency warned residents that the area could be hit by strong aftershocks and avoid the beach in the event of a tsunami.

The city's airport was also damaged, authorities said.

The Indonesian Red Cross said they rushed to send relief and medical supplies to the site, with their teams working to help find trapped residents.

Save the Children warned that young people are among those most at risk.

"While the extent of the earthquake damage is not yet clear, we know that children are often the most vulnerable after the disaster," he said.

"It will be critical that children are prioritized in any response, as they may have witnessed the death of loved ones or separated from their parents."

The epicenter of the earthquake was 36 kilometers (22 miles) south of Mamuju and had a relatively shallow depth of 18 kilometers.

Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide.

In 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Palu in Sulawesi left more than 4,300 dead or missing.

On December 26, 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, causing a tsunami that killed 220,000 people across the region, including some 170,000 in Indonesia.

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