BLANG MANCUNG: Rescuers battled through landslides and blocked roads on Wednesday to reach survivors from an earthquake in Indonesia’s Aceh province that has killed at least 22 people, including several children who died when a mosque collapsed.
More than 200 people were also injured in Aceh’s remote, mountainous interior when the strong 6.1-magnitude quake struck the north of Sumatra island on Tuesday, flattening buildings and triggering landslides.
The quake, which struck at a shallow depth of just 10 kilometers (six miles), has sparked panic in the natural disaster-prone region where more than 170,000 people were killed by the quake-triggered tsunami of 2004.
In Blang Mancung village, central Aceh district, at least six children were killed when a mosque collapsed during a Quran reading session.
Rescuers dug all night with an excavator through the rubble of the mosque looking for more children believed to be trapped but no more bodies had as yet been found.
Most houses in the village had collapsed and residents were digging through the remains of the buildings with their bare hands to search for their belongings, the reporter said.
Bodies of the dead were laid out and covered in blankets at a makeshift emergency health post in the village.
“This is the biggest earthquake we’ve ever had here,” said Subhan Sahara, head of the district’s disaster agency.
“People are still frightened, especially after the aftershocks last night. Nobody dared to stay at home. Everyone slept on the roads or in car parks.
“The earthquake triggered many landslides. People could not get out of the area because of fallen trees and mounds of earth blocking roads.”
The main hospital in the district was overwhelmed and tents had been set up outside to treat the flood of patients, he said, adding that food and water were in short supply.
Military, police and local government officials were trying to head to affected areas by ground and in aircraft but some roads were blocked by landslips, the national disaster agency said.
The agency dispatched a helicopter from neighboring Riau province to assist in rescue efforts, while an air force plane was also deployed to assess the damage.
“So far 22 people died, 210 people were injured, and thousands of buildings and homes were damaged in the quake,” disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
The casualties were spread over the two worst-hit districts of central Aceh and Bener Meriah, he said. Scores of people were being treated at hospitals across the region.