- 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.
- NO CONTACT WITH TAPAKTUAN
- 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
- Medan-based official Undang Kaban said officials had
not been able to contact anyone in Tapaktuan, around 105 miles west of
- "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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