Thousands take refuge in mosques after deadly earthquake in Aceh
Nearly 100 killed as rescue e≠orts continue in hard-hit province
meureudu, indonesia» Thousands of people in the Indonesian province of Aceh took refuge for the night in mosques and temporary shelters after a strong earthquake Wednesday killed nearly 100 people and destroyed dozens of buildings.
Some were homeless after the quake made their houses unsafe 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 Dec. 26, 2004, earthquake that struck off Sumatra. The magnitude-9.1 quake triggered a devastating tsunami that killed more than 100,000 Acehnese.
Maj. Gen. Tatang Sulaiman, chief of the army in Aceh province, said at least 97 died in the magnitude-6.5 quake that hit before dawn Wednesday, while four people had been pulled from the rubble alive. The Indonesian government declared a two-week emergency period in Aceh and some aid was already reaching hard-hit areas.
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 and rescue teams removed debris from shop houses and other buildings where people were believed buried.
The pace of the search slowed after night fall, hampered by rain and blackouts.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was centered about 12 miles southeast of Sigli, a town near the northern tip of Sumatra, at a depth of 11 miles. It did not generate a tsunami.
Siti Rukiah, 51, a mother of four, was among the many people taking refuge in local mosques. She and about 100 other people from Pante Raja, a seaside village in Pidie Jaya district, fled to Nur Abdullah mosque located on higher ground in a nearby hamlet.
“I’m really scared about a tsunami,” said Rukiah, whose brother and neighbors died in the 2004 disaster.
Aceh’s disaster mitigation agency said more than 600 people were injured. The national disaster agency said about 245 buildings were seriously damaged or destroyed in Pidie Jaya and neighboring Bireuen district, including 14 mosques.
Villager Ahmad Salam said he and his family couldn’t sleep in their house because its roof was damaged and rain was pouring in. The family went to the same mosque they took shelter in after the 2004 disaster.
“Even after 12 years, it feels like yesterday that the tsunami washed away my house,” Salman said.
Residents and members of a search-and-rescue team carry the body of an earthquake victim in Pidie Jaya, Indonesia. At least 97 people were killed and dozens are feared trapped in rubble after Wednesday’s temblor.