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7.3 quake hits Indonesia again, but this time residents are better prepared

7.3 quake struck Indonesia early Wednesday morning, six years and one month after a devastating earthquake rocked Banda Aceh and South East Asia, causing tsunami warnings, but residents had escape routes planned.

By Correspondent / January 11, 2012

Local residents wait for evacuation on a roadside following an earthquake in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia, early Wednesday. A 7.3 quake earthquake hit waters off western Indonesia early Wednesday, prompting officials to briefly issue a tsunami warning. Panicked residents ran from their homes, some fleeing to high ground by car or motorcycle, but there were no reports of injuries or serious damage.

Heri Juanda/AP

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Jakarta, Indonesia

Just hours after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of western Indonesia early Wednesday morning, stirring panic and a tsunami alert but leaving no visible damage, life had returned to normal. 

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It was a forceful reminder for residents of Banda Aceh, the city closest to the devastating 2004 earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 230,00 across South East Asia.

But despite lingering fears of the Dec. 26, 2004 monster wave that killed roughly 170,000 people in Aceh alone and altered the social fabric of the region, Rahmadi, who owns a small perfume shop in Banda Aceh says people are more prepared than they were a little over six years ago because of government programs.

“My parents put all our important things to a bag, and they know which road to use to escape,” says Rahmadi.

The US Geological Survey reported that the quake struck after midnight 261 miles southwest of the provincial capital of Aceh. On the nearby island of Simeulue, where the quake registered a 7.6 magnitude, according to Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency, a hospital evacuated patients as a precaution.

Rahmadi says the earthquake was longer than smaller ones that routinely hit the area.

“The ground just kept shaking and shaking,” says the man, who goes by one name. “Everybody was outside. People’s faces were panicked.”

Warning sirens blaring from neighborhood mosques stirred most residents from their slumber. Many merely gathered nervously in the streets, but some hopped in cars and on motorbikes and drove away from the sea. 

Rahmadi said some of his neighbors stayed outside for more than an hour after the quake, mostly because they feared a tsunami. “They were worried to go to back to sleep.”

Nervous, but better informed

Despite their nervousness, much of resident's better understanding of earthquake and tsunamis come from efforts by the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPD), the United Nations Development Program and international aid agencies to distribute information to residents about how to respond to natural disasters. 

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