Res­cue un­der­way as quake kills scores

Re­gion in ur­gent need for emer­gency sup­plies and ex­ca­va­tion equip­ment to move heavy de­bris

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Meureudu, In­done­sia

A strong un­der­sea earth­quake rocked In­done­sia’s Aceh prov­ince early on Wed­nes­day, killing nearly 100 peo­ple and spark­ing a fran­tic res­cue ef­fort in the rub­ble of dozens of col­lapsed and dam­aged build­ings.

Ma­jor Gen­eral Tatang Su­laiman, chief of the army in Aceh prov­ince, said at least 97 died while four peo­ple were pulled from the rub­ble alive. An­other four or five are still be­lieved to be buried, but didn’t say if they are dead or alive.

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

The res­cue ef­fort in­volv­ing thou­sands of 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 res­cuers in or­ange uni­forms shin­ing flash­light into the in­te­ri­ors of bro­ken build­ings as they searched for signs of life.

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.

Aiyub Ab­bas, the chief of Pi­die Jaya dis­trict, which is lo­cated 18 kilo­me­ters south­west of the epi­cen­ter, said there was ur­gent need for ex­ca­va­tion equip­ment to move heavy de­bris and emer­gency sup­plies. Footage showed res­cue per­son­nel tak­ing bod­ies in black bags away from the rub­ble.

The US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said the shal­low mag­ni­tude-6.5 earth­quake that struck at 5:03 am was cen­tered about 19 km south­east of Sigli, a town on the north­ern tip of Aceh, at a depth of 17 km. It did not gen­er­ate a tsunami.

Ter­ri­fy­ing re­minder

For Acehnese, the quake was a ter­ri­fy­ing re­minder of their re­gion’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. More than 100,000 died in Aceh af­ter the Dec 26, 2004, earth­quake 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. The In­done­sian Red Cross So­ci­ety has de­ployed emer­gency re­sponse teams and ad­ver­tised bank ac­counts for dona­tions. The In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Migration said it had sent an assess­ment team to Aceh.

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,” Abidin said.

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.

The world’s largest archi- pelago, 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.


Res­cue work­ers and po­lice re­move a vic­tim from a col­lapsed build­ing fol­low­ing an earth­quake in Aceh, In­done­sia, on Wed­nes­day.

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