54 Killed in Indonesia Earthquake in Aceh Province

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  • Earthquake with magnitude 6.8 struck just off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia
  • Twenty six people are dead, dozens more trapped after homes collapsed
  • Twelve years ago a 9.1 magnitude quake in the same region triggered what is believed to be the deadliest tsunami in history, killing more than 230,000

At least 52 people died Wednesday after a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, the U.S. Geological Survey and other sources reported.

Indonesia’s national disaster mitigation agency said 78 people suffered serious injuries and dozens more were feared trapped in collapsed and damaged buildings.

The death toll was expected to rise.

The shallow earthquake struck at 5:03 a.m. local time (5 p.m. ET Tuesday) and was centered about 6 miles north of Reuleut, a town in northern Aceh. It had a depth of 11 miles. It did not generate a tsunami.

“The earthquake was felt strongly and many people panicked and rushed outdoors as houses collapsed,” Sutopo Nugroho of Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency, said in a statement.

The quake was another terrifying reminder of their region’s vulnerability to natural disasters. More than 100,000 died in Aceh after the Dec. 26, 2004, earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami.

It was very bad, the tremors felt even stronger than 2004 earthquake,” Musman Aziz, a resident of the area, told the Associated Press. “I was so scared the tsunami was coming.”

At least seven children are among the dead, Said Mulyadi, deputy district chief of Pidie Jaya, the region hardest hit, told the Guardian.

More than 40 buildings including several mosques were flattened in the district located 11 miles southwest of the epicenter.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin, the AP said. The 2004 quake and tsunami killed a total of 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

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