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Rescuers Search for Indonesia Earthquake Survivors

  • VOA News

Men inspect a collapsed mosque after an earthquake in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province, Indonesia, Dec. 7, 2016. A strong undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's Aceh province early Wednesday, killing a number of people and causing dozens of buildings to collapse.

Rescue workers in Indonesia searched Thursday for people who might still be trapped a day after an earthquake struck Aceh province, while local officials appealed for medical supplies and other aid to help those left injured or without a home.

The magnitude 6.5 earthquake has killed about 100 people and injured more than 600 others. It hit the northern end of Sumatra island early Wednesday, bringing down dozens of buildings, with the Pidie Jaya district the hardest hit.

Thousands of people spent the night in mosques and other temporary shelters, while others slept outside. The government has declared a two-week state of emergency in Aceh.

Volunteers rush in

The Indonesian Red Cross distributed blankets, hygiene kits and tarps to those affected by the earthquake and called for people to donate blood to help the injured.

Volunteers also made their way to earthquake-hit areas to rush people to hospitals, which are now overloaded with patients.

Earthquake survivors sleep on the ground at a temporary shelter in Ulim, Aceh province, Indonesia, Dec. 8, 2016. Thousands of people in the Indonesian province of Aceh took refuge for the night in mosques and temporary shelters after a strong earthquake Wednesday.
Earthquake survivors sleep on the ground at a temporary shelter in Ulim, Aceh province, Indonesia, Dec. 8, 2016. Thousands of people in the Indonesian province of Aceh took refuge for the night in mosques and temporary shelters after a strong earthquake Wednesday.

“We are now focusing on searching for victims and possible survivors,” said Sutopo Nugroho, a spokesman from Indonesia’s national disaster management agency.

According to Nugroho, at least 1,000 workers, including officers, military personnel and volunteers, were deployed to help victims.

The International Organization for Migration ((IOM)) said in a statement that it has deployed an assessment team from Banda Aceh to heavily damaged areas.

The IOM said the two staffers have worked closely with the provincial disaster management agency known as BPBD for three years in preparation for an event like this.

Disaster response experience

Paul Dillon, the IOM Indonesia spokesman, told VOA that heavy rain in the affected area is “adding to the general misery of the situation.”

Dillon said the rescue efforts continue but added that Indonesia has significant experience with natural disaster response.

“The areas that were hit have, for the past three years, been part of an IOM [and government] Disaster Risk Reduction project designed to anticipate these sorts of events so there’s generally a high level of awareness and ability to manage,” he said.

Dillon said the team saw vehicles loaded with supplies making their way to affected regions.

“The mosques are full of survivors; people who either cannot or will not return to their homes tonight. There are many small villages in remote areas that have not checked in, so the situation in the back country is a little opaque. Roads are intact in most areas, but there’s damage to bridges and other infrastructure that’ll take time and money to fix [or] replace,” he added.

People survey the damage after dozens of buildings collapsed following an earthquake in Ule Glee, Pidie Jaya in the northern province of Aceh, Indonesia, Dec. 7, 2016.
People survey the damage after dozens of buildings collapsed following an earthquake in Ule Glee, Pidie Jaya in the northern province of Aceh, Indonesia, Dec. 7, 2016.

Area prone to quakes

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered near the town of Reuleut. Indonesia’s Climate, Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said the quake did not generate a tsunami.

Indonesia is located in an area of the world prone to earthquakes. A 2004 quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 in Indonesia and other countries.

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