At least 34 killed as quake rocks Indonesia

At least 34 killed as quake rocks Indonesia

A powerful earthquake rocked Indonesia's Sulawesi island early Friday, killing at least 34 people, levelling a hospital and severely damaging other buildings, authorities said.

Hundreds more were injured when the 6.2-magnitude quake struck in the early hours, triggering panic among the terrified residents of the island, which was hit by a huge quake and tsunami two and a half years ago that killed thousands.

"The latest information we have is that 26 people are dead... in Mamuju city," said Ali Rahman, head of the local disaster mitigation agency, adding "that number could grow".

"Many of the dead are buried under rubble," The AP cited him as saying.

Separately, the national disaster agency said at least eight people had died in an area south of Mamuju, a city of some 110,000 in West Sulawesi province, bringing the total death toll to 34.

Rescuers were searching for more than a dozen patients and staff trapped beneath the rubble of the levelled Mamuju hospital.

"The hospital is flattened - it collapsed," said Arianto from the rescue agency in Mamuju city "There are patients and hospital employees trapped under the rubble and we're now trying to reach them," he added, without giving a specific figure.

Rescuers were also trying to reach a family of eight trapped under the rubble of their destroyed home, he added.

The country's search-and-rescue agency said at least one hotel had partially collapsed after the quake struck at 2:18 am local time Friday (1818 GMT Thursday), while the regional governor's office also suffered extensive damage.

The meteorological agency warned residents that the area could be hit by strong aftershocks and to avoid the beachfront in case of a tsunami.

The local airport in Mamuju had also been damaged, authorities said.

The quake's epicentre was 36 km south of Mamuju and it had a relatively shallow depth of 18 km, the United States Geological Survey said.