Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla says between 1000 and 2000 people were probably killed on the island of Nias after today's earthquake off Sumatra.
"Roughly it is expected between 1000 and 2000 died," he told El Shinta news radio.
The 8.7 magnitude quake struck about 2.15am (AEST) today, sparking mass panic amid fears it would cause a new tsunami disaster.
"With 80 per cent buildings in Gunungsitoli having been damaged, that could happen," Mr Kalla said of the estimated body count.
Gunungsitoli, the main town on Nias island, was particularly hard hit in the quake, which sparked fears of a tsunami in Indian Ocean countries.
The vice-president's grim account was in contrast with that of aid agency SurfAid, which quoted the head of Nias' health department as saying there had been only "minimal" deaths.
Meanwhile, Gunungsitoli deputy Mayor Agus Mendrofa was quoted by Jakarta's Metro TV as saying some 10,000 people had fled the town for higher ground.
Gunungsitoli's population was estimated at around 27,000 before the quake.
Many people were reported buried or trapped in debris.
"About the victims, we cannot count them now. We only know there are many buildings flattened (and) a big possibility there will be hundreds of people killed," Nias police Sergeant Zulkifly Sirait said earlier today.
Police official Raja Gukguk said authorities were still trying to determine the extent of casualties.
"We predict that up to 75 per cent (of Gunungsitoli) has been badly damaged ... at least for now 70 per cent of buildings have collapsed," he said by phone from Gunungsitoli.
"The situation is still panic because every 15 minutes there are quakes," said Nias deputy police chief Alisman Nainggolan, speaking some six hours after the main quake hit.
Nias, off the western coast of Sumatra and about 1400km northwest of Jakarta, is a remote and rugged island regarded as a surfing paradise.
Source: Herald Sun
Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami of December 2004 Human Assistance & Development International (HADI), parent organization of IslamiCity established a relief fund that has been working with trusted NGO's on the ground to provide assistance to the victims of the disaster.
This new earthquake compounds the tragedy that has already effected several hundred thousand people.
If you would like to continue your support to this effort please CLICK HERE.