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Dozens Prisoners Escape After Aceh Quake

BY NURDIN HASAN
(THE JAKARTA GLOBE)
A security officer is checking a damaged building in Banda Aceh on Thursday after two strong earthquakes hit Aceh province on the previous day 
Banda Aceh, TAG – Dozens of prisoners in Aceh escaped in the aftermath of two powerful earthquakes that jolted the region as fears of a tsunami sent residents along Sumatra’s western coast scrambling for their lives, a prison official said on Thursday.

After the government issued a tsunami warning following an 8.5-magnitude earthquake that struck at 3:28 p.m. on Wednesday, authorities at Sigli prison in Pidie district ordered its 221 inmates to seek higher ground. 
Officials feared the prison, located just a few meters from the coast, would be among the first to be hit by a tsunami.
An earthquake-triggered tsunami in 2004 centered on the same fault line killed some 220,000 people in the Indian Ocean region, 170,000 of them in Aceh alone.
The tsunami warning was lifted hours after Wednesday’s earthquake, but by then prison authorities had lost sight of some 63 inmates.
“For humanitarian reasons we allowed all the inmates to evacuate the prison,” the warden at Sigli prison, Djoko Budi Setianto, told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday. 
Djoko said 13 of the prisoners voluntarily returned later on Wednesday evening and 18 others were rearrested the following morning.
“Right now there are still 32 inmates who have not returned and the police are looking for them,” Pidie district police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Dumadi told the Globe. “We already have their identities and home addresses.”
Dumadi said the tsunami scare also sent police officers scrambling to secure ballots from Monday’s local elections in Aceh, which have yet to be fully tallied.
Experts said Wednesday’s earthquakes were less likely to trigger a tsunami than the one in 2004 because they were caused by horizontal friction between two tectonic plates beneath the ocean, instead of the vertical friction of the 2004 quake.
At least five elderly people died from heart attacks during the panic that gripped Indonesia’s westernmost province, which is still traumatized by the devastation of more than seven years ago, the Aceh Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBA) said.
Fahmi Yunus, a project coordination for the United Nations Development Fund, said that with the lessons learned from the 2004 tsunami, Aceh was better prepared to deal with catastrophe.
“Without any orders, people immediately evacuated. Some were still panicking, but that’s understandable since [Wednesday’s] quake was powerful and lasted for a very long time,” he told the Globe on Thursday.
“The residents evacuated in orderly fashion. Maybe this has to do with the frequent tsunami drills staged by the government and other institutions.”
In Banda Aceh, the earthquake did very little damage to homes and office buildings. After the 2004 tsunami, the government imposed strict building codes, particularly for those structures that had to be rebuilt from scratch.
Cracks were visible on the walls of some buildings. The office of a local pension fund saw part of its ceiling collapse while sections of the outer wall at the prison in Banda Aceh crumbled.
BPBA head Asmadi Syam said they were still taking stock of all the damage.
Based on reports from 18 districts and municipalities in the province, he said, five people died in the quake’s aftermath
“These five did not die directly because of collapsing buildings or anything,” he said. “They died of shock, heart attacks and fear.” All but one of the victims had been identified, he added.
Four other people suffered minor injuries in the quake, including a woman who fell from the stairs in her home and had to be treated at the hospital.
The Indonesian Red Cross has sent volunteers to Banda Aceh to assist anyone still seeking shelter at the various evacuation sites across the city.[]
Dozens Prisoners Escape After Aceh Quake Dozens Prisoners Escape After Aceh Quake Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on April 12, 2012 Rating: 5

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