Major earthquake hits Aceh, no victims
by Mathias Hariyadi
The 7.8 quake causes panic among residents in Aceh Province, still recovering from the devastating 2004 tsunami. In Sinabang Island, near the epicentre, thousands of people flee into the hills fearing a repeat of the tsunami disaster. Authorities call off early tsunami warning.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Today’s earthquake off the coast of Sumatra caused a lot of fear, but no casualties among residents in Aceh Province. The quake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and struck early this morning. The epicentre was 204 kilometres west-northwest of Sibolga, some 500 kilometres from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, which is still recovering from the devastating tsunami of 2004.

At present, there is no information about casualties, but power is out in the area. The authorities issued a tsunami warning for entire South-East Pacific, but later cancelled it. Thousands of people have fled the coast and are staying away as a precaution.

The quake, which hit at 5.15 am, lasted for about a minute and was felt across the province. Sinabang Island was hardest hit. Early reports say that 12 people were injured and some homes were destroyed. “Everyone fled into the mountains,” Suhardiyanta, a local resident, said.

In Medan, capital of North Sumatra, people also poured into the streets. Local hotels were evacuated.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is currently in Vietnam at the ASEAN summit, has charged Vice President Boediono with running the rescue operations.

Aceh Province was the epicentre of the 9.3 earthquake, which hit on 26 December 2004, generating one of the most devastating tsunami in recorded history. More than 167,000 people died because of the seaquake; another 600,000 were left homeless.