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Earthquake Devastates Central Java & Yogyakarta

Death Toll at 4,900 and Expected to Rise. Bali - More than 500 Kilometers Away from Disaster Remains Unaffeted.

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An early morning earthquake on Saturday, May 27, 2006, measuring 6.2 magnitude on the Richter scale shook thousands of Central Java and Yogyakarta residents from their sleep, many of whom rushed in panic from their homes seeking safety in nearby streets.

The quake, which stuck at 5:54 a.m. local time (2354 UTC), had an epicenter 25 kilometers southeast of the Javanese cultural center of Yogyakarta. While scientist are uncertain of a connection between the events, almost simultaneous to the first earthquake's occurrence nearby Mt. Merapi awoke with a new spurt of activity spewing hot ash, gas clouds and lava. The mountain, now ranked as the world's most active volcano, has been on a heightened level of alert since late April.

A secondary quake measuring 4.8 struck at 10:10 a.m. local time, some 3 hours (310 UTC) after the first event. Although less severe, the second earthquake's epicenter was only 10 kilometers southeast of the City which has a population of more than 3 million people.

Substantial Damage and Loss of Life

Just hours after the earthquake, area hospitals were inundated with patients, prompting a call for additional medical staff to deal with the crisis and emergency tents to house the injured being cared for in open areas around the already filled-to-overflowing hospitals.

As of early morning on Monday, May 29th, the official death toll caused by the quake had passed 4,900 with thousands reported injured and receiving medical care.

Relief efforts are being at least partially thwarted by the temporary closure of Yogyakarta's Adisutjipto Airport ordered by Indonesia's Minister of Transportation, Hatta Rajasa, due to cracks on the main runway caused by the earthquake.

The airport in Surakarta (Solo) only one hour away from the devastation remains open and the major international airport in Surabaya which is 4 hours away also remains open to regular aviation and relief flights.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono together with a number of Ministers from his Cabinet have set up temporary offices in Yoyakarta to better coordinate rescue efforts. Meanwhile, the President has cancelled a planned official visit to South Korea in order to stay on the scene of the national disaster.

Bali Unaffected

Yogyakarta is more than 500 kilometers west of Bali which was unaffected by the quake. In the hours immediately following the tetonic event local tourism organizations in Bali were planning the island's humanitarian response to assist those affected by the disaster in Central Java and Yogyakarta.

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