Indonesia earthquake: frantic rescue efforts as at least 97 people killed in Aceh province

REPORTED BY KALAHAN DENG

Astrong undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia‘s Aceh province early on Wednesday, killing at least 97 people and sparking a frantic rescue effort in the rubble of dozens of collapsed and damaged buildings.Indonesian search and rescue personnel retrieve a body from the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Pidie

Maj Gen Tatang Sulaiman, chief of the army in Aceh, said at least 97 died while four people were pulled from the rubble alive. Most of the deaths were in in Pidie Jaya, the district closest to the epicentre.

Another four or five people are still believed to be buried, but it is not known if they are alive.

“Hopefully we would be able to finish the evacuation from the rubble before sunset,” said Maj Gen Sulaiman.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said 273 people were injured, about a quarter of them seriously.

Some 245 buildings were seriously damaged or destroyed, mostly in Pidie Jaya, including 14 mosques and the remainder largely dwellings and shop houses. Roads also cracked and power poles toppled over.

The rescue effort involving villagers, soldiers and police is concentrated on Meureudu, a severely affected town in Pidie Jaya district. Excavators were trying to remove debris from shop houses and other buildings where people were believed buried.

TV footage showed rescue personnel taking bodies in black bags away from the rubble.

The US Geological Survey said the shallow 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck at 5:03am (22.03 GMT on Tuesday) was centered about 6 miles (10km) north of Reuleut, a town in northern Aceh, at a depth of 11 miles (17km). It did not generate a tsunami.

For Acehnese, the quake was another terrifying reminder of their region’s vulnerability to natural disasters. More than 100,000 died in Aceh after the December 26, 2004, earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami.

Indonesian search and rescue personnel retrieve a body from the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Pidie
Search and rescue personnel retrieve a body from the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Pidie CREDIT: AFP

“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.