More than 100 people were killed early Wednesday and more were feared dead after a powerful earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with many of the victims crushed to death in their homes as they slept.
The earthquake, which shook Sumatra’s northernmost province, Aceh, had a preliminary magnitude of 6.5, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said that the temblor, which struck after 5 a.m. at a depth of about 6 miles, was centered in Pidie Jaya, a region on Aceh’s east coast, adjacent to the Strait of Malacca.
Connie Magdalena, a duty officer at the National Search and Rescue Agency’s headquarters in Jakarta, the capital, said Thursday that at least 102 people had been killed. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Agency for Disaster Management, said earlier that more than 500 people had been injured, 125 of them seriously.
“But we are still doing search and rescue operations,” Magdalena said. “The communications with our teams in the field remains very bad, but they are still searching.”
The rescue teams were scouring rubble across Pidie Jaya, about 70 miles southeast of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.
Sutopo said that panicked residents in Pidie Jaya had run from homes and other buildings. At least five aftershocks were felt, he said.
“Numerous homes and buildings collapsed; shop houses collapsed,” he said.
Sutopo said that more than 160 homes and more than 100 buildings, including 14 mosques and a school, had been damaged.
Medical teams were transferring some survivors to the town of Sigli, the capital of the neighboring region of Pidie, because of overcrowding at hospitals in Pidie Jaya, The Jakarta Post reported.
Both Indonesian and international aid organizations were sending teams to Aceh to assist in the disaster. As rescue and relief operations continued, another earthquake, with a magnitude of 5, struck nearby late Wednesday. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
Aceh was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that was caused by a giant earthquake off its western coast. The disaster killed 230,000 in more than a dozen countries, 170,000 of them in Aceh province alone.