Early Wednesday, a strong undersea 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Sumatra island, Indonesia’s province of Aceh, killing 95 people and injuring 100 more. Many are feared trapped in rubble.
The shallow earthquake that struck at 5:03 a.m. (4.00 am IST) was centered about 10 kilometers north of Reuleut, a town in northern Aceh, at a depth of 17.2 kilometers causing buildings to collapse. There was no Tsunami alert.
Pidie Jaya region was the hardest hit by the quake. 90 people died there and most of them are children.
Deputy district chief of Pidie Jaya, Mulyadi said that seven children were among the dead. “The hospital here couldn’t take the patients, so we sent some to the neighboring district,” he said. They were moved to Sigli General Hospital in neighboring Pidie regency due to a shortage of medical staff at Pidie Jaya General Hospital.
Family members of victims were becoming impatient as the injured were made to wait for services at the hospital in Pidie Jaya. 30 of the injured suffering serious injuries, like broken bones from fallen debris, were being treated at the Pidie Jaya Hospital. Many injured were being treated on the ground outside the front of the building.
A volunteer with Aceh Police, Royan, who helped treat victims, said the government was sending medical staff and medicines to hospital.
The quake struck at dawn, as some in the predominantly Muslim region prepared for morning prayers.
Several mosques in the region collapsed as well as stores, houses and other buildings. Images from the worst hit areas showed significant damage. Heavy equipment had been deployed for the effort to search the survivors.
Local disaster management agency head Puteh Manaf said, “Some people are still trapped inside shop houses, and we are trying to evacuate them using heavy machines and by hand.”
Residents of the nearby town of Lhokseumawe ran out of their houses in panic during the quake.
Mosques and shops were flattened in the small town of Meureudu, where the force of the quake sent people fleeing from their homes.
A witness said local residents were wandering the streets, unable to return to their damaged homes and fearing aftershocks.
In the coastal town of Sigli, people panicked and fled their houses to seek shelter away from the sea. “We are now evacuating to Tijue because we are afraid of a tsunami,” said Nilawati, one of those heading several kilometers inland.
Local resident Hasbi Jaya (37) said his family was asleep when the powerful quake struck. “We immediately ran outside the house but it crumbled. Everything from the roof to the floor collapsed, and was destroyed,” he said. He added, “I looked around and all my neighbours’ houses were also completely destroyed.”
Indonesia’s Climate, Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said the quake has no potential to trigger a tsunami.
Seismologists said the earthquake was felt across much of Aceh province, which was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. At least five aftershocks followed the quake, said Eridawati, local head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.
The US Geological Survey upgraded the magnitude to 6.5 from an initial reading of 6.4 and issued a yellow alert for expected fatalities and damage. “Some casualties and damage are possible and the impact should be relatively localized,” it said.
The world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, an arch of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
In June, a 6.5 magnitude quake struck off the west of Sumatra, damaging scores of buildings and injuring eight people.
In December 2004, a massive earthquake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.