At least 54 dead after earthquake rocks Indonesia Banda Aceh



A strong undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's province of Aceh early Wednesday, killing at least 54 people and causing dozens of buildings to collapse.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the shallow magnitude 6.4 earthquake that struck at 5:03 a.m. was centered about six miles north of Reuleut, a town in northern Aceh, at a depth of 11 miles.

Indonesia's Climate, Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said the quake has no potential to trigger a tsunami.

Maj. Gen. Tatang Sulaiman says 52 have died in Pidie Jaya, the district closest to the epicenter of the undersea quake. Another two people died in neighboring Bireuen district.

The national disaster mitigation agency says 78 people have suffered serious injuries from the quake.

Pidie Jaya District chief Aiyub Abbas also said hundreds of people in the district have been injured and more than 40 buildings were flattened. The district is 11 miles southwest of the epicenter.

Abbas said there is an urgent need for excavation equipment to move heavy debris and emergency supplies.


A frantic rescue effort involving dozens of villagers, soldiers and police was underway in Meureudu, a severely affected town in Pidie Jaya. Suyatno, who heads Aceh's search and rescue agency, said three excavators were trying to remove debris from shop houses where three people were believed buried.

In the nearby district of Bireuen, a teacher at an Islamic school died after being hit by falling debris, said health worker Achmad Taufiq.

He said about 20 people were being treated at a health center and one person was moved to a hospital because of broken bones and a head injury.

Residents of the nearby town of Lhokseumawe ran out of their houses in panic during the quake and many people fled to higher ground.

The world's largest archipelago, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In December 2004, a massive earthquake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.



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