Hospitals near Aceh quake zone overwhelmed with patients

A strong earthquake killed at least 93 people in Aceh province on Wednesday, as hospitals struggle to cope with the influx of injured.
Earthquake survivors receive medical treatment outside a district hospital overloaded with patients in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province on Dec 7, 2016.
Earthquake survivors receive medical treatment outside a district hospital overloaded with patients in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province on Dec 7, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
City general hospital patients rest in the open following an earthquake in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province on Dec 7, 2016.
City general hospital patients rest in the open following an earthquake in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province on Dec 7, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
Earthquake survivors rest in the corridor of an overcrowded district hospital after an earthquake in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province on Dec 7, 2016.
Earthquake survivors rest in the corridor of an overcrowded district hospital after an earthquake in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province on Dec 7, 2016.PHOTO: AFP
Earthquake survivors receive medical treatment outside a district hospital overloaded with patients in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province on Dec 7, 2016.
Earthquake survivors receive medical treatment outside a district hospital overloaded with patients in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province on Dec 7, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
Injured people receive medical attention in an emergency tent at a hospital following an earthquake in Sigli, Pidie regency, in the northern province of Aceh, Indonesia on Dec 7, 2016.
Injured people receive medical attention in an emergency tent at a hospital following an earthquake in Sigli, Pidie regency, in the northern province of Aceh, Indonesia on Dec 7, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS/ANTARA FOTO

PIDIE JAYA/JAKARTA (REUTERS, AFP) - Injured residents affected by the powerful earthquake that struck Indonesia's Aceh province on Wednesday morning (Dec 7) have been swarming local hospitals to seek treatment, filling many of them to capacity, media reports said.

The sole hospital in the Pidie Jaya district of Indonesia's Aceh province, which bore the brunt of Wednesday's quake, was quickly overwhelmed, with patients treated on the grass out front or sent to neighbouring districts with better facilities.

The district health office chief Said Abdullah said nearly 200 injured had arrived since the quake, but many would not enter the hospital for fear of aftershocks.

"We are treating people outside. We took the beds out because nobody is daring (to) enter the hospital," he told AFP.

At least five aftershocks were felt after the initial quake, the disaster management agency said.

 
 
 

Other local hospitals in the area also saw volunteer teams bringing the injured, filling most of the hospitals to capacity.

Many of those treated in hospital corridors and hastily erected disaster tents had suffered broken bones and scratches, a Reuters witness said.

Another regional hospital had suffered serious damage in the quake, along with schools and other key infrastructure, a national disaster agency spokesman said.

A Red Crescent volunteer said health workers were struggling. "There aren't enough medical staff," the Red Crescent's Muklis, who like many Indonesians uses one name, told TVOne.

Images on television and social media showed victims being rushed to hospital, flattened buildings and fallen electricity poles, and people gathering outside at street corners.

Wednesday's quake hit the east coast of the province, about 170km from Banda Aceh.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck just after 5am local time (2200 GMT Tuesday) at a depth of 17 km. No tsunami warning was issued.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of Indonesia's national disaster management agency, said a state of emergency had been declared in Aceh, which sits on the northern tip of Sumatra island. "We are now focusing on searching for victims and possible survivors," said Nugroho. His agency put the death toll at 94.

More than 1,000 personnel, including military officers and volunteers, had been deployed to help in disaster relief, he said.

Nugroho said Aceh's Pidie Jaya regency, with a population of about 140,000, was worst hit.

Hundreds of houses and shops had been levelled by the quake, leaving countless people homeless and in need of basic supplies like food and water, officials said.

"The electricity is still off. Some places have generators, but there are not many," local disaster agency head Puteh Manaf told AFP. "If it rains there will be disease."

The region suffered massive destruction in 2004 when a 9.2 magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that wiped out entire communities in Indonesia and other countries around the Indian Ocean.

Indonesia was the hardest hit, with more than 120,000 people killed in Aceh alone.