Tens of thousands camp out after Indonesian quake: official

JAKARTA, Feb 21, 2008 (AFP) – Tens of thousands of people camped outside their homes on the Indonesian island of Simeulue after a 7.5-magnitude quake that killed three, an official said Thursday.

The quake hit just off the remote island located near Sumatra on Wednesday, triggering panic across the region lashed by the earthquake-triggered 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed 168,000 people in Indonesia.

“The majority of the population have not returned to their homes. Many are still in the hills while others are just in makeshift shelters built near their houses,” Simeulue’s local government spokesman Abdul Karim told AFP.

According to government data, besides the three dead, 51 people were slightly injured, 33 houses and buildings were heavily damaged and 81 others sustained light damage.

An official from the Aceh provincial disaster mitigation centre Iskandar told AFP that he was on his way to Simeulue with a team to help assess any further damage across the island, which is home to nearly 80,000 people.

Simeulue was one of the islands closest to the 2004 quake’s epicentre, but the tsunami killed fewer than 10 people there partly because the population recognised the receding sea as a sign of disaster and fled inland.

In 2005, entire villages on Simeulue were destroyed by a quake which killed at least 17 people.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where continental plates meet, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

Wednesday’s quake sparked a local tsunami alert as well as a warning along Thailand’s Andaman coast, which was also hit by the 2004 tsunami.

From: Agence France-Presse

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