7.7 Quake Off Indonesia's
Sumatra Injures 40


JAKARTA (Reuters) - An earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale struck off the northwestern coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island early on Saturday, injuring 40 people and flattening dozens of houses and buildings, officials said.
Officials from Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics center said the small island of Simeulue -- about 170 miles southwest of the North Sumatran capital of Medan -- was among the areas hardest hit.
Simeulue Hospital official Dr. Hanif said 40 people were injured, two of them critically.
"Only 12 of those 40 people have been hospitalised and two of them are in a critical condition," Hanif told Reuters by telephone from the island, adding dozens of homes and shops had been destroyed by the quake, which hit around 8.30 a.m.
One local meteorology and geophysics official said an aftershock measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale hit the area around 5 p.m., which caused the 40-bed Simeulue Hospital to evacuate patients.
"We have had an aftershock, it was felt quite big. We have started evacuating the hospital and are setting up tents outside," Dr. Faisal told Reuters by telephone.
It was unclear how long the aftershock lasted but hospital officials said there were no further casualties.
"Basically people are too scared to sleep in their homes so there are lots of people out on the streets," Dr. Hanif said.
Hanif said there was one hospital on the island and several medical clinics and had not heard of more injuries.
Geoscience Australia said the first tremor measured 7.7 on the Richter scale and was centered under the Indian Ocean about 125 miles southwest of Medan.
"That's very big," said Mark Leonard, a seismologist at the Australian earthquake monitoring organization, adding the magnitude was similar to an earthquake that killed 20,000 people in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2001.
Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics center said the original quake measured only 5.5 on the Richter scale and the towns of Sinabang on Simeulue island and the coastal town of Tapaktuan in the south of Aceh province were the hardest hit.
But officials said the quake's epicenter was closer to the island of Simeulue which is 60 miles long and has a population of around 60,000.
Medan-based official Undang Kaban said officials had not been able to contact anyone in Tapaktuan, around 105 miles west of Medan.
"The highest MMI (Modified Mercalli Intensity) reading was 5-6 and that was in Tapaktuan," Kaban said.
A resident in Medan, 900 miles northwest of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, said he felt the tremor for at least a minute and traffic was halted momentarily.
"Things were moving for at least one minute but there is no damage to houses here," said the resident, who did not wish to be identified.
Leonard said the epicenter of the quake appeared to be about 40 miles underground, which may have been too deep to produce a tsunami.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimated the quake's depth at 20 miles.
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