Royal condolences to Indonesian president

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has consented to send a condolence message to Dr Hj Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia following Wednesday's earthquake in West Sumatra.

In the message, His Majesty expressed his sadness at the loss of lives and damage to properties in that area.

His Majesty sent his sympathies and condolences to Dr Yudhoyono, the government and people of the Republic of Indonesia, especially to the bereaved families of the victims caused by the natural disaster.

Indonesia said Thursday it feared thousands had died in the major earthquake as exhausted rescue workers clawed through mountains of rubble with their bare hands in a race to find survivors, AFP reported.

The first flights laden with food, medicine and body bags began arriving in the devastated region on Sumatra island as another powerful quake struck further south, causing more injuries and sparking panic.

Wednesday afternoon's 7.6-magnitude quake toppled buildings and led to fires in Padang, home to nearly a million people on the coast of Sumatra, and saw the city largely without power and communications.

The official death toll hit at least 770 with 294 people seriously injured, but those numbers are expected to soar as the full scale of the tragedy unfolds. Many districts remain inaccessible to emergency services.

"Our prediction is that thousands have died," health ministry crisis centre head Rustam Pakaya said.

Rescue teams from the Indonesian army and health ministry descended on the city and surrounding towns to hunt for survivors in the twisted wreckage of collapsed buildings and homes, with work expected to go on into the night.

In pouring rain that hampered rescue work early in the day, overwhelmed police and soldiers clawed through the tangled remains of schools, hotels and the city's main M Djamil hospital.

Emilzon, a medic who gave only one name, said they were treating hundreds of people for broken bones, head injuries and trauma, many of whom had accidents when the quake hit.

"We are running out of doctors and nurses because we are overwhelmed with patients," he said. - Borneo Bulletin (2nd October 2009)