Quake shakes prov­ince hit by 2004 tsunami

Nearly 100 killed, build­ings de­stroyed in Aceh

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY HERI JUANDA AND NINIEK KARMINI

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.

TV footage showed res­cuers in or­ange uni­forms shin­ing flash­lights into the in­te­ri­ors of bro­ken build­ings as they searched for signs of life. 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. The agency had ini­tially placed the epi­cen­ter un­der­sea. 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.

She said the quake was shal­low and felt so pow­er­ful she had to grab onto a table to keep from fall­ing down. She was sure a tsunami was com­ing.

“I’m re­ally scared about a tsunami,” said Ms. Rukiah, whose brother and neigh­bors died in the 2004 dis­as­ter. “I don’t want to re­turn home tonight, not only be­cause my house is dam­aged, but I am still afraid an af­ter­shock could cause a tsunami.”

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. The rest were mainly dwellings and shop houses. Roads also cracked and power poles top­pled over.

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.

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 Mus­lim prov­ince that has con­sid­er­able au­ton­omy from the cen­tral govern­ment un­der a peace deal with sep­a­ratists.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Res­cuers re­cover the body of a vic­tim from the rub­ble of a col­lapsed build­ing af­ter a strong earth­quake rocked In­done­sia’s Aceh prov­ince early on Wed­nes­day, killing al­most 100 and spark­ing a fran­tic res­cue ef­fort.

Men in­spect a col­lapsed mosque af­ter a strong un­der­sea earth­quake killed a num­ber of peo­ple and caused dozens of build­ings to col­lapse.

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