Strong Quake Hits West Indonesia; at Least 1 Dead

By ALI KOTARUMALOS | September 8, 2011

A powerful earthquake jolted the western Indonesian island of Sumatra early Tuesday, killing a 12-year-old boy and sending people streaming from houses, hotels and at least one hospital in panic.

The magnitude-6.6 quake was centered 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of the city of Medan and 62 miles (110 kilometers) beneath the earth’s crust, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

It was too far inland to generate a tsunami.

The quake hit at about 1 a.m. (1800 GMT Monday), rattling people from their sleep in towns and villages across the island’s northern tip.

Maura Sakti, a mayor in Subulussalam, told local station TVOne a 12-year-old boy had been killed. At least one other person was injured.

Hundreds of people were evacuated to temporary shelters as authorities surveyed the extent of the damage, said Lt. Col. Helmy Kesuma, police chief in the hard-hit town of Singkil.

Some electricity poles were knocked down there, crashing into homes and causing blackouts.

“My wife was screaming, my children crying,” said Burhan Mardiansyah, 37, a Singkil resident. “We saw our walls start to crack and everything inside the house was falling. Thank God we’re all safe.”

The panic extended all the way to Medan, the sprawling provincial capital of North Sumatra, where hundreds of patients from at least one hospital had to be evacuated, some in wheelchairs or with infusion drips still attached to their arms.

Hotels emptied out and residents ran into the streets or the balconies of their rented homes, clutching babies to their chests.

Fearing aftershocks, many refused to go back inside for hours.

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity.

A giant quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh.

(Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report)

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