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Strong quake jolts west Indonesia; 3 people killed
Powerful earthquake shakes western Indonesian island, killing 3 people and damaging buildings
By The Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) ' A powerful earthquake jolted western Indonesia early Tuesday, killing three people, damaging buildings and sending panicked residents fleeing from homes, hotels and even a hospital.

The magnitude-6.6 quake hit about 1 a.m. (1800 GMT Monday), waking people in towns and villages across Sumatra island's northern tip.

It was centered 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of the city of Medan and 62 miles (110 kilometers) beneath the earth's crust, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was too far inland to generate a tsunami.

Maura Sakti, a mayor in Subulussalam, told local station TVOne a 12-year-old boy had been killed. At least one other person was injured.

Boby Sigit, an official at the National Disaster Management, said later that two people were killed in Aceh ' the boy and a 60-year-old man ' while a 26-year-old mother died in North Sumatra's district of Dairi. The boy and woman were killed by falling rubble and stones, while the man's cause of death was not clear.

About 50 houses, along with a number of mosques, churches and hospitals, were damaged by the earthquake, and more than 250 shops and kiosks caught fire, due to power problems, the disaster agency said.

Hundreds of people were evacuated to temporary shelters as authorities surveyed the damage, said Lt. Col. Helmy Kesuma, police chief in the hard-hit town of Singkil.

Some electricity poles were knocked down there, crashing into homes and causing blackouts.

"My wife was screaming, my children crying," said Burhan Mardiansyah, 37, a Singkil resident. "We saw our walls start to crack and everything inside the house was falling. Thank God we're all safe."

The panic extended to Medan, the sprawling provincial capital of North Sumatra, where hundreds of patients from at least one hospital had to be evacuated, some in wheelchairs or with IVs attached to their arms.

Hotels emptied and residents ran into the streets or the balconies of their rented homes, clutching babies to their chests.

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.

Twin natural disasters almost a year ago killed about 700 people. Eruptions in Indonesia's most active volcano, Mount Merapi, killed more than 240 people last October and November.

And an earthquake Oct. 25 triggered a tsunami near the remote Mantawai islands off western Sumatra that killed more than 460 people and destroyed homes, mosques and other buildings.

A giant quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh.


Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report.

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