Relief teams from aid agencies in the UK have left to assess the impact of a series of massive quakes that rocked Sumatra’s west coast and led to tsunami warnings being issued across the Indian Ocean.
The largest quake on Wednesday night, September 12, at 6.10pm local time measured some 8.4 on the USG scale and was followed by others measuring up to 7.8. All occurred off the Bengkulu coast on the western side of Sumatra.
Several towns along the western coast of Bengkulu and West Sumatra province, the closest to the epicentres, reported houses collapsed or scores of buildings partly destroyed or suffering from cracks. Electricity in many parts of Sumatra has been down since the quake, as power stations have broken down.
World Vision Indonesia National Director, Trihadi Saptoadi, said: “We are sending assessment teams to Bengkulu and West Sumatra. We hope they will be able to provide us with rapid assessment reports on the pressing needs on the ground.”
World Vision Indonesia Humanitarian and Emergencies Assessment manager, Jimmy Nadapdap, said two relief staff would go to Bengkulu and another two staff to Padang in West Sumatra. The four staff are experienced relief operatives having handled previous emergency responses, including the 2004 Asian tsunami.
Nadapdap said: “So far, the real impact of the quakes is unclear. We are receiving media reports from the city of Bengkulu, Padang and Jambi. But we are unsure about what conditions are like in the remote regions there. The assessment team will provide us with more information, enabling us to make an appropriate response.”
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has instructed his cabinet to provide emergency aid. A medical team has been dispatched to Bengkulu to support the local hospitals.
The quakes were felt as far as Singapore and Malaysia, where many people rushed to safer places from their apartment buildings.
Several quakes, measuring between five and six in magnitude, rocked the Indonesian archipelago on Wednesday September 12, including in Papua, Timor and Jambi provinces. They were overshadowed by the massive tremor in Bengkulu and its scores of aftershocks.
World Vision Indonesia has no project close to the impacted areas. The nearest projects are in Jakarta (some 600 kilometres east of the epicentre) and in Nias island and Aceh province (over 600 kilometres away, northwest of the quakes).
Indonesia: A history of quakes
17 July 2006: A 7.7 magnitude undersea earthquake triggers a tsunami that strikes a 200km (125-mile) stretch of the southern coast of Java, killing more than 650 people on the Indonesian island
27 May 2006: Nearly 5,000 people die when a magnitude 6.2 quake hits the Indonesian island of Java, devastating the city of Yogyakarta and surrounding areas
28 March 2005: About 1,300 people are killed in an 8.7 magnitude quake off the coast of the Indonesian island of Nias, west of Sumatra
26 December 2004: Some 230,000 are killed across Asia when an earthquake measuring 8.9 triggers sea surges that spread across the region. 167,000 people are estimated to have died in Indonesia with half a million people displaced