By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, 29 March 2005 – An 8.7 magnitude earthquake near Sumatra on March 28 has created widespread panic and may have caused hundreds of deaths.
The earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean near the islands of Nias and Similue off the west coast of Sumatra. The numbers of dead and injured are unconfirmed but initial estimates range anywhere from 100 to 2000 victims. Some news organisations are reporting hundreds have died and provincial government officials say the numbers of dead could be more than a thousand.
On Nias people ran into the hills and have remained there.
UNICEF rapid assessment indicates that 10 per cent of houses in Gunungsitoli, the capital city of Nias were destroyed and 20 per cent heavily damaged. Emergency medical supplies, plastic sheeting cooking utensils, food, water and water containers will be airlifted in as soon as the roads are opened.
The North Sumatran Governor, Rizal Nurdin says medical equipment and doctors and nurses are also urgently needed.
“The difference between this earthquake and that of 26 December is that our assets are all in place. UNICEF will be responding quickly,” said Gordon Weiss, UNICEF Emergency Communication Officer.
The earthquake was felt as far away as Jakarta and Bangkok, as well as in Banda Aceh, one of the areas most severely affected by the earthquake which struck the same region in December.
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