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Deadly magnitude 6.5 earthquake hits Aceh in Indonesia

Posted on 7th December 2016 at 09:26am

An undersea earthquake off Indonesia's northern Aceh province has killed at least 52 people.

The magnitude 6.5 quake struck just off the north-east coast of Sumatra island, where dozens of buildings have collapsed and many people are feared trapped under rubble. Indonesia's meteorological agency said there was no risk of a tsunami.

In 2004, Aceh was devastated by a tsunami that killed more than 160,000 people in Indonesia alone.

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake struck just offshore at 05:03 local time (22:03 GMT Tuesday) at a depth of 17.2km. At least 70 people have been seriously injured, officials said, and hundreds of minor injuries have been reported.

A spokesman for the national disaster agency said more than 200 shops and homes had been destroyed, along with 14 mosques. A hospital and school were also badly damaged. Said Mulyadi, deputy district chief of Pidie Jaya, the region hit hardest by the quake, told the BBC's Indonesian service that the death toll could rise. He told the AFP news agency that several children were among the dead and that local hospitals had been overwhelmed.

Heavy equipment is being used to search for survivors, but Puteh Manaf, head of the local disaster management agency, told the BBC's Mehulika Sitepu that more people were needed to help because some staff were busy helping their own families.

Pidie Jaya is along the north coast of Aceh, and has a population of about 150,000. It is about 110 km (68 miles) from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.

The quake shook Banda Aceh and prompted many people across the region to flee their homes. Many are said to be reluctant to go back indoors, amid a number of aftershocks.

Musman Aziz, who lives in the affected town Meureudu, told AP news agency: "It was very bad, the tremors felt even stronger than (the) 2004 earthquake... I was so scared the tsunami was coming."

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because it lies on the Ring of Fire - the line of frequent quakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim. The island of Sumatra has been hit by several earthquakes this year.

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Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2016 BBC

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