Rescuers race to find survivors after Indonesia earthquake

2016-12-08 14:52
Earthquake. (Gregorio Borgia, AP)

Earthquake. (Gregorio Borgia, AP)

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Meureudu - Rescue workers, soldiers and police combed through the rubble of a devastated town in Indonesia's Aceh province on Thursday, resuming a search for earthquake survivors that was halted at night by rain and blackouts.

Nearly 100 people died in the shallow and powerful quake that struck northeast Sumatra before dawn on Wednesday. Hundreds were injured and dozens of buildings were destroyed.

The worst damage appears to be in Pidie Jaya district near the epicentre, but assessments of the region are still underway.

Scores of rescue personnel were crawling over a market in Meureudu, the hard-hit town, where many shop houses collapsed.

One shop owner, Hajj Yusri Abdullah, didn't hold out much hope of finding survivors. He said nearly two dozen bodies were pulled from the market debris the day before. They included a group of eight made up of a newlywed couple and family members holding an ornate celebration known as Antar Dara Baro.

Regular quakes

READ: Devastating earthquake strikes Indonesia’s Aceh, death toll rising

Some people spent the night outdoors while thousands of others took refuge in mosques and temporary shelters.

Many were homeless after the magnitude 6.5 quake destroyed or damaged their homes and others were too scared to return home.

Killer quakes occur regularly in the region, where many live with the terrifying memory of a giant December 26 2004, earthquake that struck off Sumatra. The magnitude 9.1 quake triggered a devastating tsunami that killed more than 100 000 Acehnese.

Aceh's disaster mitigation agency said on Thursday the death toll had risen by one to 98 and more than 8 000 displaced people were at several shelters in Pidie Jaya. The Indonesian government has declared a two-week emergency period in Aceh and some aid was already reaching hard-hit areas.

Humanitarian organisation Care said it would was leading a joint assessment mission of four international aid organisations.

"It will take several more days to get a full picture of the impact," Care's Indonesia director Helen Vanwel said in a statement. "We know from experience that after an earthquake of such a scale, people urgently need water, shelter, food and medicine," she said.

The Indonesian Red Cross deployed emergency response teams and announced bank accounts for donations.


Its head of disaster management, Arifin Hadi, said five water trucks had been sent into the quake area. Aid, including hygiene kits, tarpaulins, jerry cans, blankets and family assistance kits, is being distributed, with more to be sent from Jakarta, he said. The International Organisation for Migration sent an assessment team to Aceh.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake was centred about 19km southeast of Sigli, a town near the northern tip of Sumatra, at a depth of 17km. The agency had initially placed the epicentre undersea. It did not generate a tsunami.

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 quake and tsunami killed a total of 230 000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Aceh.

John Ebel, professor of earth and environmental sciences at Boston College, said there is a risk of aftershocks that even if relatively weak could cause further damage to buildings, particularly because modern building codes aren't consistently enforced in Indonesia.

The general hospital in Pidie Jaya was overwhelmed with the numbers of injured, and many people were being treated in tents pitched on its grounds, according to its director Muhammad Reza Faisal.

Read more on:    indonesia  |  earthquakes

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