Japan rescuers comb wreckage of hotels with sniffer dogs searching for survivors of Indonesia's latest devastating earthquake

As the grim task of trying to find survivors of Indonesia's latest earthquake in which hundreds of persons died, Japanese rescue teams with sniffer dogs combed through collapsed hotels in the city of Padang searching for anyone still living.

A second medical team from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) collected medical data from the devastated region before setting up an emergency center to treat survivors.

Emergency supplies of tents, blankets, sleeping pads, 80 electric generators and water purifiers arrived in the area from JICA's central warehouse in Singapore.

Within hours of the earthquake striking the island of Sumatra near the province capital of Padang, the rescue team and medical unit were enroute to the area, scene of frequent earthquakes.

Accompanied by their dogs, the 65-strong rescue combed through the wreckage that Padang was turned into, concentrating on hotels where it was believed there were still trapped victims.

The 14 medical staff were collecting data before deciding where to headquarters to begin their work. They were scheduled to be reinforced by another contingent of doctors and nurses from Japan.

The two teams are part of the Japan Disaster Relief (JDR), a network which includes JICA staff, Japanese government officials, non governmental agencies and other organizations which can respond instantly to natural and other disasters around the world.

The 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck some 85 kilometers (55 miles) under the sea, northwest of Padang, the West Sumatra province capital early in the evening of Wednesday, September 30, according to the US Geological survey which tracks such events.

A second earthquake of 6.8 magnitude hit the following morning, the Geological survey said.

Hundreds of buildings, including hospitals, were destroyed, according to government officials. Power lines were ripped down and landslides triggered.

Indonesia and surrounding countries are prone to major disasters, and the last few days were particularly devastating.

On Tuesday, September 29, a separate 8.3 magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami and 15-foot high waves smashed into the Samoan Islands. Villages and tourist resorts were destroyed and more than 120 persons killed, according to government officials.

Several days earlier tropical storm Ketsana smashed into the Philippines, inundating most of the capital, Manila, with the heaviest rains in living memory. Several hundred persons died in the storms.

JICA dispatched emergency assistance following a request from the Philippine government including blankets, sleeping pads, storage and water tanks and water purifiers. It was part of an international effort to help the stricken city and other parts of the country.

But even as those rescue efforts continued, the storm strengthened to Typhoon Ketsana and raced across the ocean to Viet Nam where dozens of persons there were killed during heavy rains and landslides in the central region of the country.

Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to the virtually annual onslaught of killer weather.

In March 2005, some 1,300 persons were killed when an 8.7 strength earthquake hit the coastline of Sumatra. The following year an earthquake hit the ancient city of Yogyakarta, killing 5,000 and a further 550 persons were killed, according to the government, when a tsunami hit West Java province.

The worst catastrophe of all occurred in December, 2004 when a tsunami hit Pacific countries and as far afield as Africa. Some 170,000 died in Indonesia alone.

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