Aceh earthquake: 100 dead, scores missing; medical facilities stretched as injured pile up

Indonesian disaster management agency warns that the number of casualties in Aceh quake is feared to rise.

Aceh earthquake: 100 dead, scores missing; medical facilities stretched as injured pile up
People walk near a collapsed mosque following an earthquake in Meuredu, Pidie Jaya in the northern province of Aceh, Indonesia December 7, 2016 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/ Irwansyah Putra/via REUTERS Reuters

Indonesian military has said the death toll from the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Aceh province early on Wednesday has gone up to nearly hundred and scores are missing. Hundreds of people have been injured and the medical facilities in the region are scant, rescue teams reported. The country's disaster management agency warned the number of casualties is feared to rise.

"So far 97 people have been killed and the number keeps growing," Aceh military chief Tatang Sulaiman said, AFP reported. Meanwhile the head of the local rescue operations told the agency the only hospital in the region was overwhelmed by the number of injured. "Hundreds are estimated to have suffered injuries," Puteh Manaf said.

The Indonesian Red Crescent confirmed this, saying "there isn't enough medical staff around." Many of the injured were treated in hospital corridors and hastily erected disaster tents, the agency reported.

The national disaster management agency said rescue teams are trying to pull more people trapped under the debris. "We are now focusing on searching for victims and possible survivors," said Sutopo Nugroho, according to Reuters.

"Many of the victims were killed or injured not because of the quake itself but because of collapsing buildings ... We estimate the number of casualties will continue to rise as some of the residents are still likely [to be] under the rubble of the buildings. The search and rescue operation is still underway," Nugroho added.

Victims were fatally wounded as structures including mosques fell apart in the tremor. Electricity polls came down, scores of houses were flattened and roads and bridges collapsed as well.

President Joko Widodo said he has dispatched his chief of staff to visit the disaster area.

The magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck 130 km southeast of Banda Aceh on Indonesia's Sumatra island. The authorities did not issue a tsunami warning. The province was among the places that suffered the most devastation in the 2004 tsunami.

The shallow tremor struck 10 kilometres north of Reuleuet at 5:03am local time north of Sumatra, the US Geological Survey said. It said aftershocks can be expected in the next few hours. Initial reports had said the quake was of magnitude 6.8.