Powerful earthquake rocks Indonesia's Java island, killing more than 3,000

A powerful earthquake flattened homes and buildings in central Indonesia early Saturday as people slept, killing more than 3,000 and injuring thousands more in the nation's worst disaster since the 2004 tsunami.

The magnitude-6.2 quake struck at 5:54 a.m. near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, 250 miles east of the capital, Jakarta. It was centered about 10 kilometers (six miles) below the surface, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Activity picked up at nearby Mount Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes, and one geologist warned the temblor could still spark a large eruption, though another downplayed those concerns.

The quake in the heart of densely populated Java Island knocked down scores of houses, a hospital and government buildings, sending hysterical people running into the streets. Many roads and bridges were destroyed, hindering efforts to get taxis and pickup trucks filled with wounded to packed hospitals.

In the hardest-hit district of Bantul, rescuers tried to pull bodies from the rubble as residents started digging mass graves, rows of corpses awaiting burial beneath the blazing sun.

Subarjo, a 70-year-old food vendor, sobbed next to his dead wife.

"I couldn't help her," he said. "I was trying to rescue my children ... and then the house collapsed."

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the army to help evacuate victims and arrived in the province Saturday afternoon with a team of Cabinet ministers to oversee rescue operations. He also told people not to fear a tsunami.

At least 3,068 were killed, Social Affairs Ministry official Sopar Jaya said, adding that two-thirds of the fatalities occurred in devastated Bantul.

"The numbers just keep rising," said Arifin Muhadi of the Indonesian Red Cross, adding that more than 3,400 people were hurt, reports AP.

O.Ch.