Toll climbs to 608 in Indonesian quakes

The death toll from the two earthquakes is expected to rise further.
With little hope of finding additional survivors, authorities Monday began clearing the rubble left by a pair of devastating earthquakes that rocked Indonesia last week.

The death toll from a pair of devastating earthquakes that struck Indonesia last week climbed to 608 on Monday, the government said. Officials feared the tally could go much higher. The National Agency for Disaster Management said Monday that 343 people had been reported missing, 285 of them in the Pariaman region of West Sumatra. Ade Edward, head of rescue operations, earlier estimated the actual number of missing could be closer to 1,000. The chances of finding survivors from the quakes were dwindling, Edward said Sunday. “Twenty-four sniffer dogs are deployed,” he said. “We think that the chance they are going to find survivors is very, very small.” Heavy machinery had been sent to the Pariaman area of West Sumatra, but hadn’t been used at maximum capacity because officials worried about possible survivors underneath.

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Because several days had passed since the quakes on Wednesday and Thursday, “we will start clearing the land” on Monday, Edward said. It was not immediately clear when on Monday the work was to start. A 7.6-magnitude quake struck Sumatra on Wednesday, followed by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake Thursday. Wednesday’s quake laid waste to buildings in the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra.