Pow­er­ful quake kills 97 in In­done­sia Res­cuers be­gin mas­sive scrab­ble for sur­vivors

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A strong earth­quake rocked In­done­sia’s Aceh prov­ince early yes­ter­day, killing nearly 100 peo­ple and spark­ing a fran­tic res­cue ef­fort in the rub­ble of dozens of col­lapsed and dam­aged build­ings. Maj Gen 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 known to be buried, but he didn’t say if they were dead or alive. The In­done­sian gov­ern­ment de­clared a two-week emer­gency pe­riod in Aceh.

The res­cue ef­fort in­volv­ing thou­sands of search of­fi­cials, vil­lagers, sol­diers and po­lice is con­cen­trated on Meureudu, a se­verely af­fected town in Pi­die Jaya district near the epi­cen­ter. 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 flash­lights into the in­te­ri­ors of bro­ken build­ings as they searched for signs of life.

The prov­ince’s disas­ter mit­i­ga­tion agency said more than 600 peo­ple were in­jured. The na­tional disas­ter agency said some 245 build­ings were se­ri­ously dam­aged or de­stroyed, mostly in Pi­die Jaya, in­clud­ing 14 mosques. The rest were mainly dwellings and shop houses. Roads also cracked and power poles top­pled over.

The US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said the 6.5-mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck at 5:03 am and was cen­tered about 19 kilo­me­ters south­east of Sigli, a town near the north­ern tip of Aceh, at a depth of 17 kilo­me­ters. The agency had ini­tially placed the epi­cen­ter un­der­sea. It did not gen­er­ate a tsunami. For Acehnese, the quake was a ter­ri­fy­ing re­minder of their re­gion’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. More than 100,000 died in Aceh af­ter a Dec 26, 2004, earth­quake trig­gered a dev­as­tat­ing tsunami.

Mem­o­ries of ‘04

“It was very bad, the tremors felt even stronger than the 2004 earth­quake,” said Mus­man Aziz, a Meureudu res­i­dent. “I was so scared the tsunami was com­ing.” Aiyub Ab­bas, the chief of Pi­die Jaya district, said there was ur­gent need for emer­gency sup­plies and ex­ca­va­tion equip­ment to move heavy de­bris. Footage showed res­cue per­son­nel tak­ing bod­ies in black bags away from the rub­ble.

Muham­mad Reza Faisal, di­rec­tor of the gen­eral hos­pi­tal in Pi­die Jaya, said the fa­cil­ity was over­whelmed with the num­bers of in­jured and many peo­ple were be­ing treated in tents pitched on its grounds. He said five of the quake vic­tims died at the hos­pi­tal. In the cap­i­tal, Jakarta, Pres­i­dent Joko “Jokowi” Wi­dodo said he had or­dered all gov­ern­ment agen­cies to take part in the res­cue ef­forts for Aceh, a con­ser­va­tive prov­ince that has con­sid­er­able au­ton­omy from the cen­tral gov­ern­ment un­der a peace deal with sep­a­ratists. In­done­sian Red Cross de­ployed emer­gency re­sponse teams and ad­ver­tised bank ac­counts for do­na­tions. Its head of disas­ter man­age­ment, Arifin Hadi, said five wa­ter trucks have 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 Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion said it sent an as­sess­ment team to Aceh.

No tsunami risk

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. 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 the rub­ble.

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

ACEH PROV­INCE: The body of a young earth­quake vic­tim is car­ried in Pi­die Jaya. — AFP

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