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Five reported dead from Indonesia quake

Published: 5:28AM Thursday April 12, 2012 Source: ONE News/ Reuters

Five people were killed and a child was critically injured from a powerful earthquake which struck off the coast of northern Indonesia yesterday, the country's disaster mitigation agency says.

At least two people died because of heart attacks, one died because of shock and a child was critically injured when a tree fell, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the agency, who gave no further details.

"Casualties and other damage are still being assessed," he said in a message sent to reporters by text.

Strong aftershocks continued to rattle Indonesia overnight after the massive 8.6 magnitude quake struck the west coast of northern Sumatra.

More than 20 aftershocks, ranging from magnitude 4.5 to magnitude 8.2, have been recorded since the initial magnitude 8.6 earthquake sparked tsunami warnings and caused airports to close yesterday.

Have you or your family and friends been caught up in the quake terror? Email your video, pictures and text to news@tvnz.co.nz

The quakes were about 300 miles southwest of Banda Aceh, on the northern tip of Indonesia's Sumatra island, the US Geological survey said. The first was at a depth of 20.5 miles.

Authorities shut down the international airport in the Thai beach resort province of Phuket, but it has since reopened.

Indonesia's disaster management agency said power failed in Aceh province and people gathered on high ground as sirens warned of the danger.

The quake has brought back harrowing memories of the wide-spread devastation and loss of life in the aftermath of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

The 2004 tsunami killed 170,000 people in Aceh province alone.

Warning sirens also rang out across the Thai island of Phuket, a tourist hotspot that was one of the worst hit areas in the 2004 tsunami.

Waves of up to one metre (3.3 feet) high were seen near islands off Aceh, but Indonesia cancelled a warning for fresh tsunamis. It said the worst-hit area was the thinly populated island of Simeulue, off Aceh's southern coast.

The strong shake triggered tsunami fears across the Indian Ocean from Australia to South Africa.

The tsunami warnings have now been lifted.

Expat Kiwis experience the shake

Kiwi Becky Taylor spent three hours on a Phuket hill after the quake struck, fearing a tsunami would follow. 

She told ONE News by Skype that locals were scrambling to head inland and the traffic was "crazy".

"There were people parked along the side of the road and perched on the edge of the cliff and the side of the hill.

"I am still pretty freaked out to be honest. It was a very frightening experience for me."

Another New Zealander holidaying in Phuket climbed through a ditch and barbed wire to get to higher ground after the quake put the popular holiday spot on high alert.   

Kiwi Scott Runciman said he was on the fourth floor of his hotel when he felt tremors vibrate through the building after the 8.6 quake struck near the Aceh province in Sumatra just before 9pm NZT yesterday.

Runciman said he headed out of the hotel to find staff rushing around frantically. 

"Once we saw the first wave of people coming around the corner we thought something is going on here," he said.

"We saw the local shop keepers pulling their roller doors down without even putting stock inside we thought 'this is serious' and we started heading for the hills."

The Hamiltonian and his travel companions were then forced to make their own way to the hills 1.5km without the aid of any official advice.

"There was very little in the way of police presence or any officialness in terms of directions," he said.

"We ended up jumping into a ditch and climbing through some barbed wire to make it to the hills."

Out on the streets

Indonesian television showed people gathering in mosques in Banda Aceh. Many others were on the streets, holding crying children.

In the city of Medan, a hospital evacuated patients, who were wheeled out on beds and in wheelchairs.

The quakes were felt as far away as the Thai capital, Bangkok, and in southern India, hundreds of office workers in the city of Bangalore left their buildings while the port of Chennai closed down because of tsunami fears.

The quakes were in roughly in the same area as the 2004 quake, which was at a depth of 18 miles along a fault line running under the Indian Ocean, off western Indonesia and up into the Bay of Bengal.

Experts said Wednesday quakes were a "strike-slip" fault, meaning a more horizontal shift of the ground under the sea as opposed to a sudden vertical shift, and less risk of a large displacement of water triggering a tsunami.

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