97 dead, scores injured in Indonesian quake
MEUREUDU, IndonesiaAt least 97 people were killed and scores injured when a strong earthquake struck western Indonesia Dec. 7 and flattened hundreds of homes and mosques, with officials warning the death toll would likely rise.
The shallow 6.5-magnitude quake struck Pidie Jaya district in Aceh province at dawn as many in the mainly Muslim region on Sumatra island were preparing for morning prayers.
The death toll has continued to rise as rescue crews sift through the devastation, sometimes by hand, to find those trapped beneath the rubble.
“So far 97 people have been killed and the number keeps growing,” Aceh military chief Tatang Sulaiman told AFP.
National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho had previously given the death toll as 52 with around 270 others injured.
An AFP correspondent said dazed residents were wandering debris-strewn streets, unable to return to their damaged homes in fear of aftershocks.
In the hard-hit town of Meureudu, terrified residents rushed outside as their homes buckled and crumbled under the force of the quake.
Mosques toppled into ruins, their spire-topped minarets smashing to the ground, while shop fronts collapsed and took down the homes above them.
Hasbi Jaya, 37, watched in horror as his two children were trapped beneath the wreckage of their family home.
He pulled them unconscious from the rubble and staggered through the dark towards the district hospital.
“Everything was destroyed,” Jaya told AFP.
“It was pitch black because the electricity was out. I looked around and all my neighbors’ homes were completely flattened.”
The sole hospital in Pidie Jaya was quickly overwhelmed, with patients being treated on the grass out front or sent to neighboring districts with better facilities.