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Earthquake strikes the northern region of Sumatra in Indonesia

Earthquake strikes the northern region of Sumatra in Indonesia

Five years after the Asian tsunami constituted one of the world’s worst natural catastrophes, killing 230,000 people around the Indian Ocean, a large earthquake has struck near the northern region of Sumatra in Indonesia.

The earthquake hit an ocean area approximately 420 kilometres southwest of Banda Aceh shortly after midnight local time (around 6.40pm Tuesday GMT). According to the US Geological Survey centre, it measured 7.3 in magnitude. 

Residents of Banda Aceh fled from buildings as tsunami warning sirens blared from mosques around the city. Some locals waited outside, while others headed for higher ground in vehicles. Two hours after the earthquake, officials declared the tsunami threat was over and no damage was reported.

This scare comes after a recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report commented on the “remarkable” recovery of the region, which was devastated by the 2004 tsunami. 170,000 people died in Aceh and the city was flattened. A Tsunami Museum has been constructed to tell the story of the catastrophe and there are mass grave sites for the dead.

Though the suffering of locals has been great, the disaster at least heralded the end of a thirty years conflict being waged between Acehnese separatists and the Indonesian military. The ensuing peace agreement allowed for investment and economic growth in the region. Within five years, the city of Banda Aceh has been rebuilt, with several escape towers for people to climb in the event of another tsunami. As well as being constructed from stronger materials, public buildings such as schools and hospitals have been located in less vulnerable areas. But despite the reconstruction and “impressive gains...in the political arena”, the UNDP’s report warns that more needs to be done to lessen the impact of natural events and to battle poverty in the region. Life expectancy and human development measures still lag behind the rest of the country.

Shortly after the latest earthquake, SOS Children received confirmation that all SOS families and facilities on the island of Sumatra, including in Banda Aceh, were unaffected. Following the initial quake after midnight on Wednesday local time, at least five aftershocks were felt. However, SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia has reported that the situation is now back to normal.