Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Magnitude 8.2 Earthquake Struck Sumatera (2 of 3)

Source: Kompas Daily Newspaper
Date: March 29, 2005

8.2 quake strikes off Sumatra

Jakarta, Kompas - A quake measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale struck Monday night at 23.09 on the sea between Pulau Nias (North Sumatera ) and Pulau Simeulue, Aceh. It resulted in much panic in Medan and Banda Aceh. Many people left their homes while electricity and phone lines were cut off.

Tremors were also felt as far afield as Padang, Jambi, Pekanbaru and Riau.

A Kompas journalist in Medan reported that the tremors were stronger and lasted longer than on 26 December.

The Kompas reporter was only able to send out news using SMS and a satellite phone.

According to a member of Parliament who was in a hotel in Medan, the tremor lasted for three minutes. 'All guests in the hotel left by emergency stairways, and there was widespread panic.

Tremors were also felt in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: March 30, 2005

Opinion and Editorial

Struck again

They say that lightning never strikes twice. But earthquakes apparently do. Just a few days over three months since a 9-magnitude temblor sent the ocean crashing over littoral areas around the region leaving 288,000 people dead or missing, another killer quake measuring 8.7 on the open-ended Richter scale jolted roughly the same area around the Indian Ocean near midnight on Monday.

Given the remoteness of many of the areas that were affected, precise information of the devastation which this latest calamity has wrought is as yet difficult to obtain. But even at this early stage, officials are reporting that hundreds, and probably thousands, of people have been killed, many of them by their collapsing houses while they lay fast asleep as the midnight hour approached. The first temblor struck the northern parts of Sumatra at 11:15 p.m. local time.

In urban centers, such as Banda Aceh, Lhok Seumawe and Medan, thousands fled their homes for higher ground in cars, on motorbike or on foot, mindful of the near-total devastation that the Dec. 26 earthquake-triggered tsunami wrought some three months earlier. Calm returned only after it became clear that no new tsunami was about to materialize and that in terms of both magnitude and destructive effect, Monday's temblor was far less than the Dec. 26 killer quake.

Even so, it is clear that the devastation is considerable. In the early hours after the tremor, for example, officials in Gunung Sitoli, capital of the remote island of Nias off the West Sumatra coast, reported that about 70 percent of the buildings in and around the local market had been destroyed and hundreds of people had been killed. Appalling as it may be, that report may paint an overoptimistic picture of the situation. And while Gunung Sitoli was without doubt hard hit, the devastation is believed to be probably even greater at Teluk Dalam, the island's remote port, near the popular surfing beach of Lagundri.

Whatever the case, these are tentative observations and the precise extent of the damage will only become clear after methodical tallies have been made. In one estimate, given by Vice President Jusuf Kalla in Jakarta on Tuesday morning and based merely on the number of buildings destroyed, the death toll could be anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 on the island of Nias alone. As of Tuesday noon, rescue workers were reported to be still pulling bodies from out of the wreckage of buildings on Nias Island, but poor communications have so far hampered rescue operations elsewhere.

It is heartening to learn that offers of help have already come in from countries as far apart as the United States, Australia and Japan. All have said they would be ready to send assistance as soon as they receive a request from the Indonesian government. And given the sort of spirit of international cooperation in times of adversity that was demonstrated in the wake of the Dec. 26 tsunami, there is little doubt that more countries will follow suit. The Indonesian Red Cross, for its part, has already rushed a team and medical supplies to the island to help the victims.

Amid all this, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's gesture of sympathy to those affected by this most recent calamity certainly deserves to be commended. We have no doubt that the Australian authorities will fully understand and accept the president's decision to delay his planned visit to Canberra, given the circumstances.

We are more than thankful for all the help that has been extended to the victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami in Aceh and North Sumatra. We only hope that the same assistance can be made available, and without too much delay, to the people of Nias and the nearby islands and regions who have been made to suffer at the hands of nature.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: March 30, 2005

Authorities say up to 1,000 dead in latest Indonesian earthquake

Gunung Sitoli, Nias (AP): About 1,000 people were killed in this week's 8.7-magnitude quake that struck remote Nias Island, the regional governor said on Wednesday.

North Sumatra Gov. Rizal Nurdin estimated that 1,000 people died in the latest disaster, but officials feared the number could climb to 2,000.

Residents swarmed over collapsed buildings in the island's main town of Gunung Sitoli early Wednesday searching frantically for survivors. A pair of legs could be seen sticking out of the wreckage of one house.

The town's hospital was barely functioning: It lacked power or water, and fuel for generators and vehicles was running low.

"We know there are many people critically injured," said Dr. Norman Peeler, a medical coordinator from World Health Organization. "It is essential they get treatment, infections spread easily in open wounds."

At a makeshift triage center on a soccer field next to the town's palm-fringed Indian Ocean beach 13 patients spent the night under a corrugated iron roof hoping to get on helicopter flights to a hospital on Indonesia's nearest main island of Sumatra.

But rain and cloudy weather grounded many planned flights, officials said.

"I have three critical patients with internal bleeding and serious fractures, but there is no space on the choppers," Indonesian Red Cross worker Ahmad Haris said.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: March 30, 2005

Earthquake brings back bad memories
By Apriadi Gunawan and Sjofiardi Bachyul, Medan/Padang

With her four-year-old daughter sobbing in her arms, Elly rushed from her house in Belawan area after a very strong earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Richter scale jolted Medan city late on Monday.

Fearing another tsunami, Elly was desperate to get as far away from the coast as possible, fleeing with her neighbors to higher ground on Belmerah toll road.

She kept on running, even when enveloped in darkness after the power failed due to the earthquake, the second biggest after the 9.0-magnitude quake and ensuing tsunamis that swept Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and North Sumatra on Dec. 26 last year.

The 29-year-old woman, and her neighbors, finally stopped running when they reached the toll road. There, thousands of other Belawan residents had taken shelter.

The Belawan residents stayed on the toll road for six hours, bringing traffic to a halt. They eventually returned home after government officials convinced them there was no tsunami risk.

Elly said she had heard rumors that the earthquake would cause giant waves.

"I was so scared I decided to run to safety," she told The Jakarta Post on the toll road at dawn on Tuesday.

She had been asleep at the time of the quake but had woken up due to the violent rattling of her bed.

"If the quake was not so strong, I would not have woken up," recalled the woman, whose husband was out of town for business.

The strong quake also shocked other Medan residents.

Iskandar, who was staying in the Grand Angkasa Hotel in Medan, said when the quake hit he headed outside as fast as he could.

"I was watching television when all the things in my room began to shake. I quickly left the hotel room and ran downstairs without so much as turning off the TV," he said.

According to Iskandar, the earthquake was much more powerful than the one on Dec. 26.

"The latest quake was much stronger and lasted longer," said Iskandar.

Other Medan residents abandoned their homes and took shelter in safer places, including several mosques. Some, like Padang Bulan residents, chose to flee to the higher Pancur Batu area.

A staff member of the North Sumatra coordination unit, Pandia, said that no causalities had been reported in Medan so far.

Padangpanjang Meteorological and Geophysics Agency (BMG) in West Sumatra said that Monday's earthquake reached IV Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) in Padang, far above the scale of Dec. 26's earthquake of II MMI.

The MMI, otherwise called Ground Shaking Intensity, is a subjective measure of the strength of an earthquake.

Monday's earthquake was also felt for longer in Padang than the one on Dec. 26 -- 15 minutes as compared to five minutes.

Just like in Medan, the earthquake forced almost all residents in Padang to flee to safer places.

People living by the beach fixed their eyes on the sea. But there were no telltale signs of a tsunami, the tide did not recede and the people were finally convinced of their safety.

"I was watching television when all the things in my room began to shake. I quickly left the hotel room and ran downstairs without so much as turning off the TV."
-- Iskandar in Medan

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