Death and injury tolls from the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck the Sumatran province of Aceh yesterday are expected to rise as rescuers race against time to find survivors trapped under hundreds of collapsed buildings.
At least 94 people have died so far, with 128 seriously injured, after the quake shook cities and towns in the north-west tip of the island at the crack of dawn.
Pidie Jaya, about 170km from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, appears to be the worst hit, with the highest number of fatalities.
Yesterday's quake did not trigger tidal waves, assuaging fears of a repeat of the 2004 tsunami that devastated the province and killed over 230,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India.
"The epicentre (of the quake is on) land, not at sea, so no tsunami potential, but it means worse damage in buildings as we are seeing now," said Mr M. Riyadi, head of the earthquake and tsunami department at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.
Hundreds of residents in Pidie Jaya were seen helping rescue workers in a frantic search for victims trapped under building rubble in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. Indonesia's national search and rescue agency chief Felicianus Henry Bambang Soelistyo said 113 rescue workers had been deployed to the regency, and two helicopters will fly in today to evacuate victims or to distribute logistics.
The Indonesian military yesterday deployed 740 soldiers to support the local police as well as rescuers to locate victims. The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) has also deployed heavy machinery such as excavators to clear debris so that rescuers can reach the victims. Early estimates indicate that at least 280 buildings, including homes, shophouses, schools and mosques, had collapsed as a result of the quake, said Dr Sutopo Nugroho, who heads the data and information division at the BNPB.
Pidie Jaya General Hospital was also seriously damaged, resulting in many patients, including many still in their hospital beds, being treated outdoors.
President Joko Widodo has ordered all relevant agencies to support the recovery efforts. "We send our prayers to the people of Aceh."
Singapore's Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Mr Chan Chun Sing, said he was saddened about the loss of lives in the quake. "I last visited Aceh in 2014 for an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami," he said in a post on social media. "Have always admired our Indonesian friends for their resilience, and hope they will continue to tackle this incident with the same strength and tenacity."
The Singapore Government has also expressed its deepest condolences to Indonesia and the families of the earthquake victims, while the Singapore Civil Defence Force will send two officers today to help with rescue efforts.