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The Indonesia Health Ministry estimates 3,000 might still be trapped.

New York Times

PADANG PARIAMAN, Indonesia - The man had driven 12 hours to his hometown in this central Sumatran district, the area closest to the powerful earthquake that struck off Indonesia's western coast on Wednesday, because he heard his village had ceased to exist.

"I heard people say Padang Pariaman was destroyed," Sutan Maskuri, 55, said Friday afternoon as eight villagers raised a stretcher over their shoulders to hoist Maskuri's injured sister around a road wiped out by a landslide.

Maskuri found that five of his siblings had died in a landslide set off by the earthquake. He sent the injured sister to a regional hospital in his own Toyota because, he said, he could not rely on the government. "No one's been here, no soldiers, no police," he said some 44 hours after the disaster began.

Padang Pariaman, with 375,000 inhabitants scattered throughout the district, had survived, though almost all of its houses had suffered some damage, their wooden frames and corrugated roofs twisted in fantastic shapes.

About 50 miles to the south, in Padang, the closest large city, rescue workers raked through rubble beneath a scorching sun, but admitted they were finding few survivors. By some estimates, more than half of the city's buildings had collapsed in the quake, which had a magnitude of 7.6, and the Indonesian Health Ministry announced that nearly 3,000 people might still be trapped in the rubble.

Many of Padang's 900,000 residents left the city; others stocked up on emergency supplies and fuel, convinced that another, larger earthquake was imminent, even as electricity slowly began to be restored.