The Latest: Pope prays for victims of Indonesia quake

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2016 7:41 AM
The Latest: Pope prays for victims of Indonesia quake

MEUREUDU, Indonesia (AP) — The Latest on a magnitude 6.5 earthquake that hit Indonesia's Aceh province on Wednesday (all times local):

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7:30 p.m.

Pope Francis has prayed for victims of the Indonesian earthquake.

Speaking to faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on Thursday for a Catholic holiday, Francis said he wanted people to know he was praying for the victims, their loved ones and for those left homeless by the quake that struck Aceh province on the island of Sumatra.

More than 100 people were killed by the quake.

Francis also prayed that God would give strength to the population and rescue workers.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and has a Christian minority numbering several million people.

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7:00 p.m.

The spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency says thousands of homes were damaged in Wednesday's earthquake and 11,000 people have been displaced.

Announcing updated figures on Twitter, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says more than 10,500 homes were damaged and 55 mosques collapsed. About 11,100 people have taken refuge in temporary shelters and mosques or are staying with relatives.

Separately, an official in Pidie Jaya district near the quake's epicenter says search and rescue efforts have intensified with more excavators deployed in devastated areas.

"We have to move faster to search and rescue possible survivors within a week," Iskander Ali says.

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4:30 p.m.

A disaster agency official in Aceh says staple foods for women and babies are most urgently needed for the relief effort.

Sulaiman, from the Disaster Mitigation Agency, says medicines are sufficient for the time being because assistance is coming from the army, police, state-run companies and local governments.

He says what's most needed is rice, cooking oil, salt fish and other foodstuffs, as well as blankets and baby diapers. He says many people complained about lack of clean water, but the problem has been tackled as electricity supply is returning to normal in many areas.

The agency's national spokesman told a news conference in Jakarta that urgent needs are food and clothes, orthopedic doctors for victims suffering fractures, medical equipment, temporary shelters and heavy equipment for evacuation.

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3:50 p.m.

The Australian government, which has a sometimes testy relationship with its northern neighbor Indonesia, says it's ready to help with the response to Wednesday's strong earthquake.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters Thursday the government hopes Indonesia will be able to quickly ascertain the numbers of people affected.

"The search and rescue operations are still underway, but we have offered the technical assistance and the ability to assess damage," she said.

Japan, a major investor in Indonesia, has said it's ready to provide assistance if requested.

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11:10 a.m.

A spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency says the death toll from Wednesday's earthquake has risen to 102, spread across three districts in northern Aceh but concentrated in Pidie Jaya near the epicenter.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said at a press conference Thursday that 136 people are severely injured and more than 600 have light injuries.

The death toll "probably will increase," he says, despite the agency only counting one person as officially missing. "A joint rescue team is still continuing to search for the victims."

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10:15 a.m.

Hajj Yusri Abdullah, owner of a shop in Meureudu town's crumpled market, says he isn't holding out much hope survivors will be found as backhoes and rescuers, worked on the rubble.

He says nearly two dozen bodies were pulled from the market debris on Wednesday including a group of eight made up of a newlywed couple and family members holding an ornate celebration known as Antar Dara Baro.

Local TV reported that about 40 shop houses in the market collapsed.

Nearly 100 people died in the shallow and powerful quake that struck northeast Sumatra before dawn on Wednesday.