More than 20 dead, dozens feared trapped in Aceh quake

More than 20 dead, dozens feared trapped in Aceh quake

JAKARTA (AFP) - At least 25 people died and dozens were injured in a strong earthquake struck off Aceh province on Indonesia's Sumatra island Wednesday (Dec 7), officials said.

The shallow 6.5-magnitude quake hit just north of the small town of Reuleuet at 5:03 am local time (6:03am Singapore time), the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. There was no tsunami alert.

Xinhua news agency cited Heni, press officer at the provincial disaster agency, as saying that at least 25 people were killed.

Pidie Jaya deputy regent Said Mulyadi told MetroTV news there may be as many as 25 dead and 40 injured.


The quake struck as some in the predominantly Muslim region prepared for morning prayers, local officials said. District official Apriadi Achmad said one of those killed was an elderly man, possibly from a heart attack.

There were fears for dozens believed to be trapped inside damaged homes, Achmad added.

"Several shophouses and homes have caved in 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.

The earthquake was felt across much of Aceh, which was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, said Eridawati, local head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, who like many Indonesians go by one name.

Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said several buildings were damaged by the quake and efforts to treat the wounded are underway.

"Some homes and shophouses in Pidie Jaya have collapsed, there are residents who are wounded, efforts are being made to handle the impact of the earthquake," said Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who heads of the Data and Information Division at BNPB.

In the town of Sigli, people panicked and fled their houses to seek shelter away from the sea.

"We are now evacuating to Tijue (around 3km from Sigli) because we are afraid of a tsunami," said Nilawati, whose house is near the sea.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, but reports said that electricity in the district of Pidie had been cut and a local university in Bireuen district had suffered some damage.


At least five aftershocks followed the quake, Eridawati said.

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.

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