LAMPAHAN — A powerful earthquake in Indonesia’s Aceh province flattened buildings and sparked landslides Tuesday, killing at least five people and injuring dozens in a region devastated by the quake-triggered tsunami of 2004.
The 6.1-magnitude quake struck inland at a depth of just 10 kilometers in the mountainous Bener Meriah district in the heart of Aceh, the US Geological Survey said.
It destroyed houses in the district, some 320 kilometers from the provincial capital Banda Aceh, and triggered several landslides.
Police and troops were deployed to lead rescue efforts, as pictures showed the walls of houses reduced to rubble and roads badly damaged and blocked by landslips.
Five people had so far been confirmed dead in the quake, Fauzi, an official from the local disaster agency, told AFP late Tuesday.
In Suka Makmur village a landslide engulfed a coffee plantation, killing one man, said the official who uses one name.
“A man was working at a coffee plantation with his wife when a landslide caused by the quake struck,” he said.
“His body was found under a pile of earth soon afterwards,” he said, adding that his wife and another woman were missing at the site.
Four other people died in hospitals in the district from injuries sustained in the quake, he said.
One of the fatalities was a child who died when a wall collapsed, Ema Suryani, a doctor at a health clinic in Lampahan city in the district, told AFP.
“We have received around 50 people with injuries sustained when the walls of their houses collapsed,” added the doctor.
“There are around 30 people seriously injured, some with head injuries. The rest have only light injuries like minor cuts and grazes.”
Injured people had been transported from several affected villages in two trucks, she said.
Around 40 houses were damaged by the quake, including some which were flattened, said disaster agency official Fauzi. Most of the damaged houses were in the Wih Pesam area of the district, he added.
People ran outside in panic in Banda Aceh as the quake shook houses, and in Medan city to the south of the province on Sumatra island.
“The quake was felt strongly for around 15 seconds, from Bener Meriah to Banda Aceh. People panicked and rushed out of their homes,” national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, is regularly hit by quakes. In 2004 a massive tremor sparked a tsunami that killed 170,000 people in the province and tens of thousands more in countries around the Indian Ocean.
In April last year an 8.6-magnitude quake struck 431 kilometres off Banda Aceh, prompting an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami alert.
Five people died and seven were injured in Aceh in the quake and following aftershocks.
In September 2009 a major earthquake near Padang city on Sumatra killed more than 1,000 people.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
First posted 4:55 pm | Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013