At least 41 people died in an earthquake of magnitude 6.4 that struck northern Indonesia Wednesday, December 7, according to the national agency for disaster management and a health official. The tsunami alert was not triggered.
Rescue teams used construction equipment to clear rubble created by the collapse of many buildings in the Aceh province. "Search and rescue operations are ongoing and we use heavy equipment to search for victims," said an official of the relief agency of the province.
The earthquake occurred at dawn at a shallow depth in the district of Pidie Jaya in western Indonesia, when the inhabitants of this predominantly Muslim region were preparing for morning prayers.
Residents caught in the early morning
Mosques and shops collapsed in the small town of Meureudu. Residents fled their homes, but others were surprised in their sleep.
The local disaster management agency reported injured hundreds.
Images broadcast on television showed buildings reduced to the status of rubble, utility poles down and many people gathered in the streets.
Panic caused by the 2004 tsunami memorial
Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra, was devastated in 2004 by an earthquake coupled with a tsunami whose epicenter was near the capital, Banda Aceh, on the west coast.
Wednesday, the quake's epicenter was located on the east coast, 170 km from Banda Aceh. No tsunami warning was triggered.
But in the small town of Sigli, not far from the epicenter, people panicked and fled their homes to seek refuge away from the sea. "We go to Tijue, [about 3 km from Sigli], because we are afraid that there is a tsunami, "said one resident, whose house is near the sea.
Indonesia is located on the "Ring of Fire" Pacific, where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity significant.