Earthquake rocks Indonesia's Banda Aceh, at least 54 dead


A strong undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's Aceh province early on Wednesday, killing at least 54 people and causing dozens of buildings to collapse.

The army chief in Indonesia's Aceh province says 54 people have died in the quake that struck early Wednesday, more than doubling the death toll originally reported as 25.

Maj. Gen. Tatang Sulaiman says 52 have died in Pidie Jaya, the district closest to the epicenter of the undersea quake. Another two people died in neighboring Bireuen district.

The national disaster mitigation agency says 80 people have suffered serious injuries from the magnitude 6.5 quake.

A frantic rescue effort involving dozens of villagers, soldiers and police was underway in Meureudu, a severely affected town in Pidie Jaya district, which was closest to the quake's epicenter. Excavators and rescuers were trying to remove debris from shop and other buildings where people were believed buried.

More than 40 buildings including mosques, stores and homes were flattened in the district located 18 kilometers (11 miles) southwest of the epicenter, according to Abbas. Roads cracked and power poles toppled over. Abbas said there is an urgent need for excavation equipment to move heavy debris and emergency supplies. TV footage showed rescue personnel taking bodies in black bags away from the rubble.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the shallow 6.5 magnitude earthquake that struck at 5:03 a.m. (2203 GMT Tuesday) was centered about 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Reuleut, a town in northern Aceh, at a depth of 17 kilometers (11 miles). It did not generate a tsunami.

For Acehnese, the quake was another reminder of their region's vulnerability to natural disasters. More than 100,000 died in Aceh after the Dec. 26 earthquake that triggered a devastating tsunami.

"It was very bad, the tremors felt even stronger than 2004 earthquake," said Musman Aziz, a Meureudu resident. "I was so scared the tsunami was coming."

In the capital Jakarta, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said he has ordered all government agencies to take part in the rescue efforts.

Seaside resident Fitri Abidin in Pidie Jaya said she fled with her husband and wailing children to a nearby hill after the quake jolted the family awake early in the morning. They stayed there for several hours until authorities reassured them there was no tsunami risk.

"It terrified me. I was having difficulty breathing or walking," said Abidin.

She said her husband grabbed hold of her and carried her out of the house.

The family's house didn't collapse, but the homes of some neighbors did and Abidin is afraid three friends were buried in building collapses.

In Pidie Jaya's neighboring district of Bireuen, a teacher at an Islamic building school died after being hit by falling debris, said health worker Achmad Taufiq.

About 20 people were being treated at a health center and one person was moved to a hospital because of broken bones and a head injury, said Taufiq.

Residents of the nearby town of Lhokseumawe ran out of their houses in panic during the quake and many people fled to higher ground.

The world's largest archipelago, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. The 2004 tsunami killed a total of 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

Associated Press

Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune
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Magnitude-6.5 earthquake hits near Indonesian city of Banda Aceh


Rescuers in Aceh are still searching for more victims of an earthquake that has killed at least 30 people.
The magnitude-6.5 quake struck just before dawn in the regency of Pidie Jaya, about 120 kilometres south-east of the city of Banda Aceh.

The pre-dawn quake was felt for about 15 seconds and by the time it was over around 100 buildings had collapsed including 72 combined shops and dwellings, 15 houses, five mosques, a petrol station and a school.

The local hospital in Pidie Jaya was damaged, and survivors are being sent to Banda Aceh for treatment.

Regency head Aiyub Abbas said that heavy equipment had been brought into the area to help move the rubble to search for survivors.

"I'm told that most place in Pidie are impacted, most of the shops are collapsed, wiped out, mosques are completely down," he said.
"I need all kinds of help. Medical supplies are being handled by the regency and provincial government, what we need is long term funds from the central government for rebuilding."

Emergency services are still searching the damaged buildings for more victims and survivors.

The injuries have overwhelmed the local medical centres and survivors are being moved to hospitals in nearby cities.

The worst-hit area was about 120km south-east of Banda Aceh, the city devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. There was no tsunami this morning.

 Earthquake splits road in Indonesia. December 7, 2016. 
PHOTO: The earthquake destroyed infrastructure. (Supplied: Indonesian Red Cross )
National disaster management agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Nugroho said in a statement "the earthquake was felt strongly".

"Many people panicked and rushed outdoors as houses collapsed," he said.
Heavy equipment has been deployed for the effort to search for survivors.

Social media images showed buildings reduced to rubble, fallen electricity poles and people gathering outside at street corners.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake struck at a depth of 17 km on Aceh's north-eastern coast.

The Indonesian Red Cross said it expected more victims would be found throughout the day.

A number of aftershocks are still affecting the area.