Powerful earthquake rattles people of Aceh

A powerful quake with a magnitude of at least 7.2 hit the Indonesian province of Aceh yesterday in an area devastated by the killer waves of the 2004 tsunami.

The quake struck at 3.59pm AEST, 66km southwest of Meulaboh on the Aceh coast, according to the local Meteorological and Geophysics Agency, triggering a local tsunami alert.

The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the quake at 7.4.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, although some media said panicked people rushed from their houses and some sought higher ground.

Lieutenant Colonel Widodo, chief of West Aceh police in Meulaboh, told MetroTV that many residents remained in the streets for fear of another quake.

“But up until now, there is no indication of damages or casualties,” said Colonel Widodo.

The people of Aceh are still traumatised by memories of December 26, 2004, when the Indian Ocean surged over the northern tip of Sumatra after a 9.3-magnitude quake split the seabed to the island’s west.

Indonesia was the nation hardest hit in the tsunami, one of the world’s deadliest natural disasters, with at least 168,000 people killed out of more than 220,000, who lost their lives across the region.

Yesterday’s quake off Meulaboh, on the northwestern tip of the island of Sumatra, struck at a depth of 30km, the local agency said, while the USGS put the depth at 61km.

Meulobah was one of the hardest hit areas in 2004, with thousands of people killed and homes destroyed.

In neighbouring Malaysia, the Meteorological Department said there was no threat of a tsunami in the country, which lies to the north of Sumatra.

However, it said tremors were felt in the west coast of Malaysia including in Penang.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Sumatra early last month, leaving about 17 people injured when some houses collapsed.

A 7.6-magnitude quake killed about 1000 people in the port of Padang, western Sumatra, in September last year.

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