Indonesia Jolted by Yet Another Strong Earthquake

JAKARTA, Indonesia, July 5, 2005 (ENS) - Indonesians panicked early this morning as another strong earthquake rattled the country's Nias Island region where a quake killed at least 300 people in March. There is no immediate word of casualties.

At 1:52 am today another quake rocked the region. The magnitude 6.7 earthquake was felt in North Sumatra's provincial capital of Medan, 255 kilometers (155 miles) from the epicenter, Indonesian and U.S. meteorological and geophysical officials said.


Map of the northern portion of Sumatra, showing the locations most affected by today's quake and earlier quakes. (Map courtesy USGS)
The epicenter of the quake was pinpointed at 30 kilometers, or 18.6 miles, below sea level off the west coast of North Sumatra. It was 190 km, or 120 miles, west of the nearest population center of Sibolga.

"The epicenter is located between the Simeleu Island of Aceh and the Nias Island of North Sumatra, eastward of Banyak Island," a government meteorologist told the Antara news agency this morning.

The same area - off the west coast of the island of Sumatra - has been shaken by strong earthquakes often since the December 26, 2004 quake. That earthquake touched off the devastating tsunami which struck without warning, killing more than 250,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean. The provincial capital city of Banda Aceh was reduced to rubble in the giant wave, and many people lost their lives.

The area is just beginning to recover, with the help of billions of dollars in aid from the international community, but the frequent quakes and aftershocks are making it difficult to rebuild with confidence.

Nias Island with a population of 444,000, Simeulue Island with its 77,000 people and the Banyak islands, inhabited by about 5,000 people - all situated off the southwest coast of Sumatra - are the worst affected areas.

Thousands of people on these islands were displaced by the December tsunami and still are living in relief camps.

The Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for Aceh and Nias (BRR) said today that donors are still needed to support nine reconstruction projects that have been approved but still lack of funding.

Among the projects are rehabilitation of Gunungsitoli Hospital on Nias Island and engineering analysis of infrastructure on Simeulue Island.


Buildings on the island of Nias were reduced to rubble in the March earthquake. (Photo courtesy USGS)
"Part of the role of the BRR is to help match projects that address community needs with donor funds. As a first step in the match-making process, BRR is informing donors of several projects that are currently unfunded but which have been approved by the BRR and merit funding from donors," said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of BRR, in the agency's weekly update.

Approval means that the project has met BRR’s minimum guidelines for rehabilitation and reconstruction projects in Aceh and Nias, but does not mean that BRR has conducted a thorough technical assessment of the merits and other aspects of the projects. BRR encourages each funding party to conduct its own due diligence for each project.

To warn Indian Ocean residents in an attempt to prevent further loss of life and property, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Assembly unanimously decided to establish an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System at their biannual meeting last month in Paris.

The Indian Ocean system will consist of a coordinated network of national warning systems including the A$69 million Australian Tsunami Warning System announced by the Australian government on May 12.

Australia has been selected to host the Secretariat for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System (IOTWS) at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission office in Perth on the country's west coast.

The first meeting of the IOTWS Intergovernmental Coordinating Group will be held in Perth on August 3-5. Indonesia is considered to be a key partner in the effort to build and maintain a tsunami warning system for the region.

The Indian Ocean has never had a tsunami warning system because the region had not experienced a tsunami before the December 26 event in the memory of anyone alive today.