Death toll in Indonesia quake reaches 24

Jakarta, Sep 17 (RIA Novosti) The death toll on the Indonesian island of Sumatra following Wednesday’s magnitude 8.4 earthquake has reached 24, an Indonesian Health Ministry official said Monday.

Wednesday’s earthquake was followed by up to 50 aftershocks measuring over 4.5 on the Richter scale. Nine of these aftershocks had a magnitude of over six.

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“The total number of victims is 24 dead, 26 seriously injured, and 96 with minor injuries,” said Rustam Pakaya, citing latest reports from local authorities on the island.

The tremors destroyed about 5,000 buildings and damaged at least another 21,000. The economic cost of the quake is estimated at over $376 million, according to Indonesia’s Antara news agency.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is currently visiting the disaster area, earlier announced a state of emergency in the two provinces most affected by the quake – Bengkulu and Western Sumatra.

Bengkulu has the dubious distinction of being the world record holder for earthquake activity, with over 694 tremors with magnitude of 4.6 or higher in the first five months of last year.

Indonesia is located in the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, and suffers frequent earthquakes, as well as tsunamis set off by powerful underwater quakes.

On Dec 26, 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, generated a huge tsunami that killed more than 275,000 in a dozen nations, the majority in Indonesia’s Aceh province.