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'Frantic' Search For Survivors After Earthquake In Indonesia Kills Nearly 100

Houses of worship were destroyed by the earthquake that struck Aceh province on Wednesday.
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Houses of worship were destroyed by the earthquake that struck Aceh province on Wednesday.

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia around 5 a.m. local time on Wednesday, killing nearly 100 people.

The death toll is expected to rise as rescue and recovery efforts continue, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports.


The quake was at a relatively shallow depth, just 11 miles under the Earth's surface, Anthony says. Its epicenter was on the coast of Aceh province, the same region where an earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami in 2004.

No tsunami warning has been issued following Wednesday's quake. Aftershocks continue to shake the region.

"Most of the deaths and injuries reported so far were in the Pidie Jaya district southeast of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh," Michael Sullivan tells NPR's Newscast unit. "Local officials say there's an urgent need for excavation equipment to move debris."

The Associated Press describes the rescue efforts as "frantic," with teams of people fighting to pull survivors out of rubble:

"The rescue effort involving thousands of villagers, soldiers and police is concentrated on Meureudu, a severely affected town in Pidie Jaya district. Excavators were trying to remove debris from shop houses and other buildings where people were believed buried. TV footage showed rescuers in orange uniforms shining flashlight into the interiors of broken buildings as they searched for signs of life.

"The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said 273 people were injured, about a quarter of them seriously. Some 245 buildings were seriously damaged or destroyed, mostly in Pidie Jaya, including 14 mosques and the remainder largely dwellings and shop houses. Roads also cracked and power poles toppled over."

The wire service also describes terror as residents remembered the 2004 tsunami.

"It was very bad, the tremors felt even stronger than 2004 earthquake," Musman Aziz of Meureudu told the AP. "I was so scared the tsunami was coming."

The 2004 earthquake was massive — magnitude 9.1 — and hit off the coast of Aceh on Dec. 26.

The resulting tsunami killed more than 230,000 people.

As Michael Sullivan notes, the Indonesian archipelago "lies along the Pacific Ocean's so-called Ring of Fire, a belt of volcanoes and shifting fault lines where many of the world's largest earthquakes occur."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
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