"We ran to a nearby hill, because our house is near a beach. We were afraid a tsunami can come at any time."

  07 December 2016 12:45

Update: Death toll has risen to 97 as of Wednesday afternoon according to Maj. Gen. Tatang Sulaiman, chief of the army in Aceh province.

***

A strong undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's Aceh province late Tuesday evening, killing at least 25 people and causing dozens of buildings to collapse.

A frantic rescue effort involving dozens of villagers, soldiers and police was underway in Meureudu, a severely affected town in Pidie Jaya district. Three excavators were trying to remove debris from shop houses where three people were believed buried, said Suyatno, who heads Aceh's search and rescue agency.

District chief Aiyub Abbas said hundreds of people in the district have been injured and more than 40 buildings including mosques, stores and homes were flattened. The district is located 18 kilometers southwest of the epicenter.

Abbas said 25 people have been killed in that district alone. A local health office said eight were young children.

The US Geological Survey said the shallow 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck at 05:03 a.m. on Wednesday was centered about 10 kilometers north of Reuleut, a town in northern Aceh, at a depth of 17 kilometers. There was no risk of a tsunami.

Abbas said there is an urgent need for excavation equipment to move heavy debris and emergency supplies.

TV footage showed rescue personnel taking bodies in black bags away from the rubble.

Rescuers recover the body of a victim.
© Associated Press/Heri Juanda

 

In the nearby district of Bireuen, a teacher at an Islamic building school died after being hit by falling debris, said health worker Achmad Taufiq.

About 20 people were being treated at a health center and one person was moved to a hospital because of broken bones and a head injury, said Taufiq.

Residents of the nearby town of Lhokseumawe ran out of their houses in panic during the quake and many people fled to higher ground.

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 traumatized because she believes three friends were buried in building collapses.

Niniek Karmini & Ayi Yufridar/Associated Press

 

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