AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
BANDA: Five people died and at least seven were injured as massive earthquakes struck off Indonesia’s Sumatra island, officials said today.
Officials said they believed at least two people died of heart attacks and three others died of shock in the quakes yesterday. “Based on data collected on victims and damage, five people died, one person is critically injured and six others had minor injuries,” National Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
An 8.6-magnitude quake struck 431 kilometres off the city of Banda Aceh late afternoon yesterday, and was followed by another undersea quake measured at 8.2, with aftershocks continuing through the night.
All of the casualties were in Aceh province, Nugroho said, with the critically injured victim a child who fell from a tree. Communities in Aceh have now returned to daily life, Nugroho added, in contrast to the devastation caused by the massive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed 170,000 people in the province alone and wiped out entire towns.
Minimal damage was caused this time round because government regulations ensured buildings have better resistance to quakes, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
“The buildings in Aceh are now stronger because the government has set certain standards that oblige contractors to ensure anti-earthquake aspects are put in place,” UNDP national project coordinator for Aceh Fahmi Yunus said. Experts said an Indian Ocean-wide warning system, which alerts people of a potential tsunami, through SMS messages, smartphones and social media, helped spread the word across Indonesian Sumatra and other nations such as Thailand and India, prompting people to seek higher ground.
After the first quake struck, people grabbed their families and poured into the streets in search of safe havens and higher areas, having gone through repeated disaster drills since the 2004 quake and tsunami. Police tried to manage throngs of residents fleeing coastal areas in cars and on motorbikes, while panicked teachers tried to evacuate children from schools. Damage was minimal also because the epicentre was much farther offshore than 2004.
Search for boat
MATARAM: Indonesian authorities were searching for a boat believed to be carrying asylum seekers to Australia that went missing off eastern Indonesia, officials said on Thursday. The search was launched after reports of a capsized boat, the police spokesman of West Nusa Tenggara province, Sutarman Husain, said. “We received information in the afternoon from fishermen that a boat with dozens of people had capsized off Sumbawa island,” in eastern Indonesia, he said. Murtadi, a search and rescue official in the province who goes by one name, said his force had also received information that the boat was loaded with about 50 asylum seekers and was en route to Christmas island.