With so much destruction, there isn't enough machinery to go around. So rescuers are digging through the rubble with their bare hands looking for any signs of life. For Indonesians living in the Bay Area, seeing the images of the destruction has been difficult to process.
Members of the Indonesian church, International Full Gospel Fellowship, gathered in Richmond Thursday night to pray for the people in their homeland. The group's pastor, Rev. Sugi Hendric, says three members of their branch church were among those killed in the quake. He says under the rubble, the three were found dead.
Most of the destruction has been in Padang -- a city of 900,000 on the island of Sumatra. Rescuers have been struggling to pull survivors from the hundreds of buildings that were flattened or heavily damaged. At one school, police say a few children have been found alive but small bodies have been pulled from collapsed classrooms.
Trini Sualong is Indonesia's acting consul general in San Francisco. She's been receiving constant updates of the rescue effort.
"Last several hours there's still some yelling, some crying from people inside the building, but now it's getting weak and weak," says Sualong.
The U.S. is doing what it can to help. Four American planes have been cleared to bring relief supplies into the country. President Barack Obama spent four years in Indonesia as a child.
"I know firsthand that the Indonesian people are strong and resilient and have the spirit to overcome this enormous challenge and as they do they need to know America will be their friend and partner," says President Obama.
Government officials say the search for those who are still trapped in the rubble will take weeks. Many are hoping all of this will bring about change.
"Unfortunately, there's no earthquake code in Indonesia. I think it's a wakeup call for the local government," says Rev. Hendric.
Indonesia experiences dozens of quakes a year, but this was the largest since 2006. It originated on the fault line that spawned the 2004 Asian tsunami.