Ninety-seven people were killed as an earthquake struck Indonesia’s Aceh province early on Wednesday. Frantic rescue effort was on in the rubble of dozens of collapsed and damaged buildings.
Maj. Gen. Tatang Sulaiman, chief of the army in Aceh province, said 97 died while four were pulled from the rubble alive. Another four or five are known to be buried, but he didn’t say if they are dead or alive.
The rescue effort, involving thousands of villagers, soldiers and police, is concentrated on Meureudu, a severely affected town in Pidie Jaya district. Excavators were trying to remove debris from shop-houses and other buildings where people were believed buried. TV footage showed rescuers in orange uniforms shining flashlight into the interiors of broken buildings as they searched for signs of life.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said 273 people were injured, about a quarter of them seriously. Some 245 buildings were seriously damaged or destroyed, mostly in Pidie Jaya, including 14 mosques and the remainder largely dwellings and shop-houses. Roads also cracked and power poles toppled over.
Aiyub Abbas, chief of Pidie Jaya district, which is located 18 kilometers southwest of the epicenter, said there was an urgent need for excavation equipment to move heavy debris and emergency supplies. Footage showed rescue personnel taking bodies in black bags away from the rubble.
Muhammad Reza Faisal, director of Chik Ditiro General Hospital in Pidie Jaya, said the facility, which was damaged by the quake, was overwhelmed with the numbers of injured and many people were being treated in tents pitched on its grounds. He said five of the quake victims died at the hospital.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the shallow 6.5 magnitude earthquake that struck at 5-03 a.m. (2203 GMT Tuesday) was centered about 19 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Sigli, a town near the northern tip of Aceh, at a depth of 17 kilometers (11 miles). The agency had initially placed its epicenter undersea. It did not generate a tsunami.