Strong earthquake strikes Indonesia’s Sumatra, at least 25 dead

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A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.5 has struck the northern end of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, causing a number of buildings to collapse and killing at least 25 people, local authorities say.

The earthquake, which happened at about 5:03 a.m. local time on Wednesday, was centered near the village of Pante Raja, about 19 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Sigli, or 92 kilometers (57 miles) southeast of Banda Aceh.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the magnitude of Wednesday’s earthquake at 6.5 with a shallow depth of just 8.2 kilometers (5 miles). Strong shaking was felt across the northern end of Sumatra, with lighter shaking observed further away.

A number of buildings in Pidie Jaya Regency were reported to have collapsed, including mosques, houses and multiple stores in the town of Meureudu. At least eight stores were also said to have collapsed in Lueng Putu, which is located in the same area.

Rudianto, the head of the Aceh branch of the Indonesian Red Cross, said at least 25 people had been killed, but the full extent of the damage and casualties is still unclear. Rudianto said dozens more had been injured and the death toll is expected to rise.

Pidie Jaya Deputy Regent Said Mulyadi told local news portal DetikCom that a number of people remain trapped under the rubble and said rescue operations are ongoing. Heavy equipment is being brought in to help rescue people.

A police official told Indonesia’s Antara news agency that about 30 people were being treated for injuries in Meureudu. Some of those injured, which includes children, were said to have been seriously injured from falling debris.

The tremor prompted scores of people to flee from their homes, with some of them running for higher ground in fear of a tsunami, but Indonesia’s seismological agency BMKG said there was no threat of a tsunami.

Computer models from the USGS estimate that some 13.2 million residents across the region may have felt the early morning earthquake, including 454,000 people who may have experienced “very strong” shaking and 7,000 who may have experienced “severe shaking.”

“The population in this region resides in structures that are vulnerable to earthquake shaking, though some resistant structures exist,” the USGS said in its assessment, adding that some casualties and damage are likely, though the impact should be relatively localized.

Indonesia is on the so-called ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes.

In December 2004, a magnitude-9.1 tremor, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, struck off the west coast of Sumatra, unleashing a massive tsunami that struck scores of countries in the region and killed at least 227,898 people.

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