More quakes and aftershocks leave Sumatrans rattled

AGENCIES , BENGKULU AND ARGAMAKMUR, INDONESIA

Sat, Sep 15, 2007 - Page 1

Frightened Indonesians on Sumatra huddled in tents outside their damaged homes yesterday, traumatized by the latest of more than 40 aftershocks since a huge earthquake struck two days ago.

Indonesia's meteorology agency issued the latest in a series of tsunami warnings yesterday after another strong quake in Sumatra, although it was lifted about an hour later.

There have been a series of tremors ranging in intensity from 4.9 to 7.8 since Wednesday's 8.4 quake, repeatedly setting off tsunami warnings in Indian Ocean countries.

Seismologist Mike Turnbull of Australia's Central Queensland University warned against complacency over the frequent tsunami warnings: "The problem is, these were very large earthquakes. They had every capability to generate large tsunami."

At least two areas in Bengkulu province were hit by tsunamis after Wednesday's quake, residents said. About 100 houses were damaged by a 3m wave in Serangai, 70km north of Bengkulu, but there were no casualties.

Some houses had been shifted about 10m by the water and tree trunks and large logs littered the main road.

Padang Bakung, a village two hours drive south of Bengkulu, also suffered a tsunami that inundated houses with water as high as half a meter. The houses were 60m from the coast.

Rustam Pakaya, head of the Indonesian health ministry's crisis center in Jakarta, said 14 people had been killed and 56 injured across the region since Wednesday's quake.

The latest quakes triggered new panic among thousands camping out in makeshift shelters or tents, using torches and kerosene lights, and setting fires overnight to keep warm.

Patients had to be moved into tents in front of the hospital in Bengkulu, the nearest major town to the epicenter of Wednesday's 8.4 quake.

Rescue workers rushed aid across Sumatra yesterday.

The Indonesian military and local officials began distributing food and medical aid to survivors relatively unhampered, an official from the national disaster mitigation agency said.

"The local infrastructure has not been seriously damaged and we can still deliver aid by land," the official, Soetrisno, said.

The military provided two Bell helicopters, one each to be based in the worst-hit cities of Bengkulu and Padang, he said.

A local aid worker said the main problem was a shortage of manpower to move supplies.