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Strong Quake Rocks Indonesia

Authorities say a powerful earthquake flattened hundreds of buildings in western Indonesia Tuesday, killing at least 70 people and seriously injuring at least 65 others.

The death toll in west Sumatra province "would likely rise" because reports from remote areas had yet to be received, according to local government spokesman Hasrul Piliang.

The earthquake and at least one of the aftershocks was felt in Singapore, 265 miles from the epicenter, forcing the evacuation of several older office buildings, according to reports on TV station Channel NewsAsia.

The quake was also felt in Malaysia's southern coastal city of Johor, where people fled offices, buildings and shopping centers.

"Women were crying out in terror. We all just fled as quickly as we could," said Alpion, a welder in the Indonesian seaside town of Padang, the largest city in West Sumatra. Along with thousands of others, he was fleeing to higher ground, fearing a possible tsunami. Authorities said the quake did not cause any tidal activity.

"Everything in my house fell down ... a cabinet hit me," said Rahma Nurjana, another resident of Padang. "My neighbor's house collapsed."

The hardest hit area appears to be in and around Solok, a bustling town close to the epicenter of the quake on Sumatra's western coast, which was spared destruction in the 2004 tsunami disaster.

At least two young children and a teacher were killed when a two-story building crashed onto a playground in Solok, said police spokesman Supriadi, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name. Another woman died at a market.

Town Mayor Samsu Rahim told el-Shinta radio that three people were burned alive when their collapsed home burst into flames.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck 20 miles below Solok, on Sumatra's western coast. It was followed by several strong aftershocks that sent residents pouring into the streets, shattered windows and toppled power lines.

Hospitals in Sumatra are struggling to cope with a flood of patients, many suffering cuts and broken bones.

At least one hospital was evacuated following the quake, sending panicked doctors and nurses fleeing through the doors and startled patients limping behind, some aided by family members.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

There have been at least two strong quakes in Indonesia in the past few months, one weighing in at 7.3, which killed three people, and another late last month, with a strength of 6.5, provoking a tsunami warning but ultimately no tidal wave and no known casualties.

A tsunami off Java island last year killed nearly 5,000 people.

In December 2004, an earthquake off Sumatra island spawned the tsunami which killed more than 160,000 people in Indonesia – more than in any of the 11 other nations affected by the disaster, which all together saw more than 230,000 people perish.

Life has not returned to normal in Sumatra, where about 70,000 people affected by the tsunami are still living in housing meant to be temporary.

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