More than 11,100 people displaced due to Aceh quake: Disaster agency

A day on from the earthquake that killed almost 100 people, rescue teams are racing against time in the search for life beneath the rubble. Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and there aren't enough medical staff to deal with the wounded.
Indonesian rescue workers carry a survivor from a fallen building after an earthquake in Trienggadeng, in the northern province of Aceh, Indonesia.
Indonesian rescue workers carry a survivor from a fallen building after an earthquake in Trienggadeng, in the northern province of Aceh, Indonesia.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - More than 11,100 people have been displaced from their homes due to the widespread damage caused by the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Aceh province on Wednesday.

The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) in its latest update on Thursday night (Dec 8) said 10,534 buildings such as homes, shop houses, schools and mosques have been damaged due to the quake, while hundreds have collapsed.

These include 8,434 houses that recorded "light damage", but a majority of residents, fearing that their homes may collapse from aftershocks, have since fled.

"There are now 11,142 people who have been displaced by the quake," said BNPB chief Williem. "Some went to stay at homes of their relatives' house, others stayed at 28 shelters set up by the government."

President Joko Widodo, who arrived in the capital of Banda Aceh on Thursday evening after speaking at a forum in Bali, will visit Pidie Jaya and other affected areas on Friday to personally inspect the damage caused by the quake.

The death toll from the quake has remained at 102 as of Thursday. 

Earlier Thursday, Dr Sutopo Nugroho, who heads the data and information division at BNPB, told reporters during a press conference in Jakarta, that among those evacuated from areas affected by the quake, more than 750 were injured, including 136 who suffered serious injuries.

Hundreds of survivors have also taken refuge at a shelter set up at the Masjid Al Munawarah, a mosque in Bie village near Pidie Jaya regency, reported Kompas news. 

 
 

The shelter’s coordinator, Mr Ramli M. Nafi, said the victims chose to take refuge there over fears of a repeat of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which devastated Aceh province and killed over 230,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India

Tremors from Wednesday's quake were felt in Aceh Besar, Bireuen, Lhokseumawe, Pidie, Pidie Jaya, and Sabang, in Aceh. However, Pidie Jaya was the worst hit, with more than 2,100 displaced people now living in tents set up by rescuers in safe-zones.

The rest mainly came from Bireuen, another regency located along the north-east coastline of Aceh that was affected by the 2004 tsunami.

Rescue efforts are now focused on locating survivors, or retrieving bodies buried under the rubble of shattered buildings, said Dr Sutopo.

He said that rescuers have started using infra-red sensors to detect the body temperature of victims trapped under the rubble.

"Another device operates on a GSM network which sends an SMS to any mobile phones within a 100m-radius asking 'Are you there?' and anyone who replies, we will prioritise to rescue," he added.

About 1,500 soldiers, policemen and rescuers from the BNPB as well as Basarnas, Indonesia's search and rescue agency, are now involved in rescue operations in Aceh, which declared a 14-day state of emergency on Wednesday to allow the province to tap on relief resources from the central government.

The number does not include hundreds of volunteers from non-government organisations or residents who have been helping rescue workers.

The police have also deployed a medical team of 15 from North Sumatra, to help identify those who have died during the earthquake but can no longer be recognised by their families.

Reports from local media on Thursday, indicate that some shops in Meureudu, a small town in Pidie Jaya, where the focus of rescue efforts were on Wednesday, have reopened for business even as rescue efforts continue.

Local hospitals, however, continue to struggle with the influx of quake victims, as additional supplies and reinforcements arrive over the day.

Dr Sutopo says he still expects the death and injury toll to rise as rescue operations continue in the days ahead.