I am at a hotel that collapsed. I am talking to a Singaporean man who was in the foyer when the quake struck. He is now trapped.
One of his legs is pinned and he can’t feel it anymore. He can move his hands and he has been drinking water. I can’t see him, but I can talk to him through a gap in the debris. He asked me to call his two daughters in Singapore, which I did through colleagues. The Indonesian military are here trying to get him out. They have a hammer and a pick. He is hanging on, but his voice is getting a little weaker. He has been trapped here for nearly 24 hours. The hotel, once perhaps six stories high, now looks like a layer cake: squashed beds and air conditioners, curtains strewn all over the place — it is all pancaked down. Onlookers are standing around. The military commander here thinks this man is the last person trapped in the hotel. The man was meeting with four people when the temblor hit: One died, three others were freed by rescuers. He has been asking about the fourth person he was with, but I was told not to tell him the other has died — just that I would try and find him. Watch the Red Cross discuss rescue efforts Elsewhere around the city, every fourth or fifth building on the streets is flattened. There is no panic, people are calm and driving around, looking dazed. The feeling is one of disbelief.
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As the day goes on, there are more and more people on the street. In a way, it feels as if it has become a tourist attraction. Some people are digging through the rubble, but they let the authorities take over when they come along. The military is out in the streets. I stopped at a local hospital where the outpatient area collapsed, but I was told no one was in it at the time of the quake. I saw 16 bodies in yellow bags laid out in a makeshift morgue across from the outpatient center, and while I was there two more bodies came in. We spoke to a doctor who said he had treated 40 people.
I also came across a three-story elementary school that had collapsed to one story. I was told 60 students were in it when the temblor struck, but it was unclear to me what happened to the children. I couldn’t see anyone who appeared to be relatives outside. The quake did not flatten the entire city. But on every street the destruction and devastation of the temblor is evident.