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Hundreds die in Indonesian quake

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A powerful earthquake that struck western Indonesia triggered landslides and trapped thousands of people under collapsed buildings — including two hospitals, an official said. At least 200 bodies were found in one coastal city and the toll was expected to be far higher.

The earthquake Wednesday started fires, severed roads and cut off power and communications to Padang, a coastal city of 900,000 on Sumatra island. Thousands fled in panic, fearing a tsunami.

Buildings swayed hundreds of miles away in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

In the sprawling low-lying city of Padang, the shaking was so intense that people crouched or sat on the street to avoid falling. Children screamed as an exodus of thousands tried to get away from the coast in cars and motorbikes, honking horns.

At least 500 buildings in Padang, the regional capital, collapsed or were badly damaged, said Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono, adding that 200 bodies had been pulled from the rubble there.

The extent of damage in surrounding areas was still unclear due to poor communications, he said.

The magnitude 7.6 quake hit at 5:15 p.m. (5:15 a.m. CDT), just off the coast of Padang, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. It was along the same fault line that spawned the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations.

A tsunami warning was issued Wednesday for countries along the Indian Ocean, but was lifted after about an hour; there were no reports of giant waves.

The shaking flattened buildings and felled trees in Padang, damaged mosques and hotels and crushed cars. A foot could be seen sticking out from one pile of rubble. At daybreak, residents used their bare hands to search for survivors, pulling at the wreckage and tossing it away piece by piece.

"People ran to high ground. Houses and buildings were badly damaged," said Kasmiati, who lives on the coast near the quake's epicenter.

"I was outside, so I am safe, but my children at home were injured," she said before her cell phone went dead. Like many Indonesians, she uses one name.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told MetroTV that two hospitals and a mall collapsed in Padang.

"This is a high-scale disaster," Supari said.

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