Rescuers scrabble for survivors as Indonesia quake kills 97

Indonesia – (warsoor) – Rescuers scrabbled through the rubble of shattered homes, shops and mosques in search of survivors Wednesday after a powerful earthquake struck western Indonesia and killed at least 97 people.

The shallow 6.5-magnitude quake struck Pidie Jaya district in Aceh province at dawn as many in the mainly Muslim region on Sumatra island were preparing for morning prayers.

“So far 97 people have been killed and the number keeps growing,” Aceh military chief Tatang Sulaiman told AFP after the army took over responsibility for the search and rescue.

“When we retrieve bodies sometimes there’s five, sometimes 10 corpses.”

More than 1,000 soldiers and about 900 police have been deployed to the worst-hit areas to set up shelters and evacuation points, he added.

It was the second time in just over a decade that tragedy had struck the province’s east coast, following the 2004 tsunami disaster.

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Hundreds of houses and shops were levelled by the quake, leaving countless people homeless and in need of basic supplies like food and water, officials said.

“The electricity is still off. Some places have generators, but there are not many,” local disaster agency head Puteh Manaf told AFP.

“If it rains there will be disease.”

– ‘Everything was destroyed’ –

The sole hospital in Pidie Jaya was quickly overwhelmed, with patients treated on the grass out front or sent to neighbouring districts with better facilities.

Hundreds of houses and shops were levelled by the quake, leaving countless people homeless and in need of basic supplies like food and water, officials said.

“The electricity is still off. Some places have generators, but there are not many,” local disaster agency head Puteh Manaf told AFP.

“If it rains there will be disease.”

– ‘Everything was destroyed’ –

The sole hospital in Pidie Jaya was quickly overwhelmed, with patients treated on the grass out front or sent to neighbouring districts with better facilities.

Everything was destroyed,” said Hasbi Jaya, who pulled his two children unconscious from the rubble of their home.

“It was pitch black because the electricity was out. I looked around and all my neighbours’ homes were completely flattened.”

An AFP correspondent said dazed residents were wandering debris-strewn streets, unable to return to their damaged homes in fear of aftershocks.

Some fled to higher ground for fear of a tsunami although no alert was issued.

A huge undersea earthquake in 2004 triggered a tsunami that engulfed parts of Aceh and other countries around the Indian Ocean, killing more than 170,000 people in Indonesia alone.

Indonesian seismologists said the latest earthquake was felt across much of Aceh province, with many aftershocks following the initial tremor.

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.

Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.

Aceh lies on the northern tip of Sumatra island, which is particularly prone to quakes.

In June a 6.5-magnitude quake struck off the west of Sumatra, damaging scores of buildings and injuring eight people.

 

Source: AFP

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