Trucks carted the white-shrouded bodies of earthquake victims through a torrential rain Sunday to the edge of town where soldiers labored to dig enough graves.
The work was slow the day after 100 people died in a pre-dawn quake on the island of Sumatra, as the downpour filled the graves with water and turned the ground into mire.
Another 700 people were seriously injured in the magnitude-7 quake, and 10,000 buildings collapsed or were seriously damaged. The epicenter was near this town of 40,000 in a remote south-central valley.
Five strong aftershocks on Sunday drove survivors out of their homes and into the open, where they huddled in the rain and wept.
“Our community was so peaceful and everything was perfect,” sobbed Sunardi, a 49-year-old farmer in a nearby village. Like many Indonesians, Sunardi uses only one name.
“I thought maybe this time it’s going to be my turn,” said Yus Joko, 40, a Sungaipenuh schoolteacher who lost his entire family of four.
Yus said he barely got outside his home on Saturday when it “crumbled like matchsticks, burying my whole family in it.”
Local police and residents joined a battalion of 800 soldiers to extract bodies from the rubble and bury them quickly to try to stem the outbreak of disease.
Still, “they were given a decent Muslim burial,” said an officer.
Meanwhile, officials said, another quake with a magnitude of 5.2 struck about midday Sunday on Java, the large island adjacent to Sumatra. Its center was about 120 miles southwest of Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. There were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties.
Saturday’s earthquake damaged roads leading to the stricken valley in Jambi province and downed telephone and power lines, making rescue efforts all the more difficult.
“My boys are working day and night to get the bodies out, but we don’t have enough tools and equipment to speed up the process,” said Lt. Col. Ibrahim Idris, who is overseeing the search.
Residents spent a third night in tents or in the open, trying to keep bonfires going to warm them in the 50-degree nighttime chill.
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