Indonesians feel lucky after escape from quakes

“I really feel my prayers were answered this time,’’ said Basyah

Written by Associated Press | Banda Aceh | Published: April 13, 2012 1:14:54 am

Residents surveying damage from two powerful earthquakes that reignited memories of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami said Thursday they could hardly believe their luck.

Five people died from heart attacks,and a few others were injured as mobs fled to high ground in Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh — closest to the epicentres.

But aside from cracks in the walls of houses and structural damage to one bridge,you would hardly know anything happened,said Usman Basyah,smiling as he handed change to customers at his small street stall.

“I really feel my prayers were answered this time,’’ said Basyah,who lost one of his sons in the disaster eight years ago. “I’m so grateful. We’ve gone through enough trauma already.’’

Another man,who spent the night in a mosque sheltering hundreds of others who were worried about the regular aftershocks,agreed.

“Of course,I was scared,’’ said Nasir Djamil. “We all were. But we were much better prepared this time. I think we learned from the last nightmare. We knew what we had to do.”

The first quake,measuring 8.6,triggered a tsunami watch around the Indian Ocean,from Australia and India to as far off as Africa. Hours later,a powerful 8.2-magnitude aftershock hit.

Warning buoys — put in place after the 2004 disaster that killed 2,30,000 people in a dozen nations,three quarters of them in Aceh — accurately predicted that the tsunami would not be big.

Sirens sounded along coasts and warnings spread like wildfire by mobile phone text messaging. And,for the most part,evacuations appeared to go smoothly.

Still,traffic-clogged streets in Aceh pointed to the need for better organisation.

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