Aid, cash pledged for Indonesia quake victims

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SINGAPORE, Sep 13 (Reuters) Aid agencies have pledged cash and rushed teams to assess damage and help the injured after a major earthquake and a series of powerful aftershocks shook Indonesia's Sumatra island.

US-based Catholic Relief Services said it has committed an initial 50,000 dollars to the earthquake recovery effort.

''Between the earthquakes and aftershocks, the damage seems to be more widespread than initially thought,'' CRS Indonesia Country Director Rich Balmadier said in a statement carried on Reuters AlertNet Web site (www.alertnet.org).

''We are concerned about the vulnerability in rural villages, where the houses are modest and less equipped to withstand massive impact,'' he added. Australia pledged 42,000 dollars in emergency aid today through the Indonesian chapter of the International Red Cross.

''This assistance will help in early impact assessments and to support deployment of Indonesian emergency medical teams and transport critical relief items to the affected areas,'' said Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

''Australia is in constant contact with the Government of Indonesia and stands ready to provide further assistance if requested,'' Downer said in a statement.

Southwest Sumatra suffered the worst damage from last evening's 8.4 magnitude quake that also triggered a tsunami warning. The cities of Padang and Bengkulu suffered damage but assessments are still underway.

A series of aftershocks today, one of them measuring 7.8, caused further panic and triggered tsunami warnings that were later cancelled.

Walls of buildings in Bengkulu had cracked, but most homes did not appear to have collapsed, although a school was badly damaged and the ceiling of the main hospital had also come down, a Reuters photographer said.

The mayor of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra, said many people were trapped under collapsed buildings.

World Vision Indonesia said relief teams were due to leave today to assess the impact of the quakes.

''We are sending assessment teams to Bengkulu and West Sumatra today,'' World Vision Indonesia National Director Trihadi Saptoadi said in a statement, adding that the real impact of the quakes remained unclear.

US-based International Medical Corps and Direct Relief Internation said they had already mobilised relief efforts.

IMC said it was working with its Indonesian partner Ambulan 118, which had deployed an emergency response team to support health care workers in southern Sumatra.

Indonesian social-aid organization Muhammadiyah, Direct Relief's largest local partner, was gathering needs assessments from its network of local clinics throughout the island, Direct Relief International said in a statement on AlertNet.

REUTERS JT KP1348

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