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Indonesia quake deaths reach 102

MEUREUDU, Indonesia (AP) – Humanitarian organizations descended on Indonesia’s Aceh province Thursday as the government in Jakarta promised tons of emergency aid and officials raced to assess the full extent of damage from an earthquake that killed more than 100 people.

Search efforts involving volunteers and nearly 1,500 rescue personnel were concentrated on the hard-hit town of Meureudu in Pidie Jaya district near the epicenter of the magnitude 6.5 quake that hit before dawn Wednesday.

Humanitarian assessment teams were fanning out to other areas of the district.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the death toll had risen to 102 and warned it could increase. Search teams were using devices that detect mobile phone signals with a 100-meter (yard) radius to help guide their efforts as they scoured the rubble, he said. Aceh’s disaster mitigation agency said more than 600 people were injured.

Those killed included very young children and the elderly. Mohammad Jafar, 60, said his daughter, granddaughter and grandson died in the quake but he was resigned to it as “God’s will.”

He was getting ready for morning prayers when the earthquake hit. He said he and his wife managed to push their way out through the debris.

Thousands of people are homeless or afraid to return to their homes. Officials in Aceh said more than 8,000 people spent Wednesday night in shelters in Pidie Jaya district alone.

Killer quakes occur regularly in the region, where many live with the terrifying memory of a giant Dec. 26, 2004, earthquake that struck off Sumatra. The magnitude 9.1 quake triggered a devastating tsunami that killed more than 100,000 Acehnese.

The Indonesian government said its urgent aid would be flown out of Jakarta on Thursday afternoon and will include 10 generators, tents, folding beds, baby supplies and body bags.

The military is setting up an emergency field hospital and sending two dozen doctors, and the Health Ministry is deploying a medical team and sending medicines. The Red Cross sent aid such as water trucks on Wednesday and humanitarian group CARE is leading an assessment team of four international aid groups to avoid duplication of efforts.

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