Aceh quake

Sumatra has been rocked often

Indonesian rescue team searching for victims after an earthquake struck Pidie Jaya district, Aceh, on Dec 7, 2016.
Indonesian rescue team searching for victims after an earthquake struck Pidie Jaya district, Aceh, on Dec 7, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

Unlike the devastating Boxing Day tsunami that hit Aceh in 2004, yesterday's 6.5-magnitude earthquake did not trigger a similar tidal wave as its epicentre was on land, said the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Indonesia.

But inland quakes cause more buildings to collapse, trapping people under the rubble, especially in built-up cities and towns, Mr M. Riyadi, head of the earthquake and tsunami department at BMKG, said yesterday.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity running around the Pacific Ocean.

The island of Sumatra, where Aceh province is located, has been struck by at least two strong earthquakes this year: A 5.9-magnitude quake on April 10 about 61km south-west of Bengkulu, and a powerful 7.8- magnitude earthquake about 800km off the coast of Padang on March 2.

A tsunami, caused by a 7.5-magnitude quake, destroyed hundreds of homes in the Mentawai Islands, just off West Sumatra, in 2010. More than 461 people died in that disaster, which hit not long after a catastrophic 7.6-magnitude earthquake in Padang killed more than 1,100 people in 2009.

Five major quakes, including the catastrophic 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, have struck the city over the past 12 years, giving it the dubious distinction of being the earthquake capital of the world.

The United States Geological Survey said yesterday's earthquake, which struck at 5.03am local time, was a "shallow" one.

Experts said such shallow earthquakes are much more dangerous than deep-focus earthquakes because they generate more force.

Tremors from yesterday's 6.5-magnitude quake were felt in Pidie Jaya, Pidie regency, Aceh Besar, Sabang, Bireun and Lhokseumawe in Aceh province.

Francis Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2016, with the headline 'Sumatra has been rocked often'. Print Edition | Subscribe