BANDA ACEH, Indonesia >> A powerful earthquake jolted western Indonesia early today, killing a man and sending panicked residents fleeing from homes in towns and villages across Sumatra island’s northern tip. No tsunami was generated.
The magnitude 6.4 quake hit about 7:30 a.m. local time and was centered 17 miles northwest of Aceh province’s Sinabang town at a depth of 28 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho from the National Disaster Management Agency said a 70-year-old man who was suffering from hypertension died as he fled in panic and fell down, but there were no other casualties reported.
Twenty buildings were damaged, including mosques, public health centers, schools and local government offices, the agency said.
Suharjono, from Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency, said the earthquake had no potential to generate a tsunami. He said a quake that close to the coast would have to be more powerful to generate a giant wave.
Residents of Sinabang on Simeulue island, off the west coast of Sumatra and close to the epicenter, said the quake struck as people were gathered for pre-dawn meals and prayers during the fasting month of Ramadan.
“A few seconds strong earthquake shook everything around us,” said Ahmadi, a trader at the town’s market. “Everybody ran out from homes … many screaming in panic, but there was no damage around us.”
The panic extended to several towns and villages in Aceh’s neighboring province of North Sumatra. 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 on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Aceh.