Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Strong earthquake hits off Sumatra, Indonesia


THE death toll from a powerful earthquake that struck western Indonesia Wednesday has nearly doubled to 97, the military said, as more bodies were pulled from the rubble of scores of shattered buildings.
The earlier figure of 52 dead was revised up significantly by the Indonesian military, which has taken over responsibility for the search and rescue operation.
Dozens were also feared trapped in rubble after the earthquake struck off Aceh province on Indonesia’s Sumatra island on Wednesday.
Mosques and shops were flattened in the small town of Meureudu, where the force of the quake sent people fleeing from their homes.
The shallow 6.5-magnitude quake hit just north of the small town of Reuleuet at 5.03am local time, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. There was no tsunami alert.
Indonesian search and rescue personnel work as they attempt to rescue people trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Pidie, Aceh. Picture: AFP
Indonesian search and rescue personnel work as they attempt to rescue people trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Pidie, Aceh. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
Rescue operations were under way to find those believed trapped with heavy machinery being used to shift the debris.
A witness said local residents were wandering the streets, unable to return to their damaged homes and fearing aftershocks.
Images from the scene showed homes levelled, mosque spires toppled and cars crushed under rubble.
Residents gather outside a damaged mosque, its minaret reduced to rubble following its collapse, in the town of Pidie, Indonesia's Aceh province in northern Sumatra. Picture: Zian Muttaqien.
Residents gather outside a damaged mosque, its minaret reduced to rubble following its collapse, in the town of Pidie, Indonesia's Aceh province in northern Sumatra. Picture: Zian Muttaqien.Source:AFP
The quake struck at dawn, as some in the predominantly Muslim region prepared for morning prayers, local officials said.
A woman in the worst-hit district near the epicenter of Indonesia’s earthquake says she fled with her husband and children to a nearby hill after the quake jolted the family awake early Wednesday. They stayed there for several hours until authorities reassured them there was no tsunami risk.
Seaside resident Fitri Abidin in Pidie Jaya district says: “It terrified me. I was having difficulty breathing or walking.” She says her husband grabbed hold of her and carried her out of the house as their children were crying.
She says: “We ran to a nearby hill, because our house is near a beach. We were afraid a tsunami can come at any time.” The family’s house didn’t collapse but the homes of some neighbors did. Abidin is traumatised because she believes three friends were buried in building collapses.
A badly damaged building is seen after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck the town of Pidie, Indonesia's Aceh province. Picture: Zian Muttaqien
A badly damaged building is seen after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck the town of Pidie, Indonesia's Aceh province. Picture: Zian MuttaqienSource:AFP
Local resident Hasbi Jaya, 37, said his family was asleep when the powerful quake struck.
“We immediately ran outside the house but it crumbled. Everything from the roof to the floor collapsed, and was destroyed,” he told AFP.
“I looked around and all my neighbours’ houses were also completely destroyed.”
Patients were also being sent to a neighbouring district with greater facilities, said deputy district chief Said Mulyadi.
He said at least seven children were among the dead, and many more had suffered broken bones and other injuries.
“There are many shophouses have caved in, and many (people) are alive but trapped,” he told AFP.
District official Apriadi Achmad said that one elderly man had died, possibly from a heart attack, and there were fears for dozens believed to be trapped inside damaged homes.
“Several shophouses and homes have caved in Pidie Jaya district and the owners are still trapped there,” Achmad, chief of the local disaster management office, told AFP.
“We are now deploying heavy machines to help out and hopefully we can save the ones who are trapped,” he said.
Seismologists said the earthquake was felt across much of Aceh province, which was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
At least five aftershocks followed the quake, said Eridawati, local head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.
The USGS upgraded the magnitude to 6.5 from an initial reading of 6.4 and issued a yellow alert for expected fatalities and damage.
Residents gather around a collapsed building after the strong earthquake. Picture: Zian Muttaqien.
Residents gather around a collapsed building after the strong earthquake. Picture: Zian Muttaqien.Source:AFP
In the coastal town of Sigli, people panicked and fled their houses to seek shelter away from the sea.
“We are now evacuating to Tijue because we are afraid of a tsunami,” said Nilawati, one of those heading several kilometres inland.
The Bureau of Metereology was quick to tweet there is no tsunami threat to Australia.
In June a 6.5-magnitude quake struck off the west of Sumatra damaging scores of buildings and injuring eight people.
Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.
Sumatra is particularly prone to quakes. Aceh province on the tip of the island was devastated by the quake-triggered tsunami in 2004 that killed more than 170,000 people in Indonesia and tens of thousands more in other countries around the Indian Ocean.
The earthquake is said to have trapped dozens of people in collapsed buildings. Picture: Zian Muttaqien.
The earthquake is said to have trapped dozens of people in collapsed buildings. Picture: Zian Muttaqien.Source:AFP
Meanwhile, an earthquake has rattled Trinidad and Tobago and nearby Caribbean islands but there have been no immediate reports of significant damage or injuries.
The 5.8 magnitude quake hit late Tuesday afternoon local time and was felt widely in the twin-island republic off the coast of Venezuela.
Local TV stations are posting photos of damage to supermarkets.
It was also felt in the neighbouring islands of Grenada and St. Vincent.
The US Geological Survey says the temblor was centred about 25km southwest off the city of Scarborough on the island of Tobago. It had a depth of roughly 35km.
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http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/strong-earthquake-hits-off-sumatra-indonesia/news-story/28c7d40d264febb3d56b1eb9f1724ce2
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