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Indonesians feel lucky after escape from quakes

Associated Press Modified: April 12, 2012 at 10:00 am •  Published: April 11, 2012
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BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — 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 used cars and motorcycles to flee to high ground in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh — closest to the epicenters.

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 were much better prepared this time. I think we learned from the last nightmare. We knew what we had to do.

That was the sentiment across much of the globe.

The first quake, measuring 8.6, triggered a tsunami watch in more than two dozen nations and island territories, from Australia and India to as far off as Africa. Hours later, a powerful 8.2-magnitude aftershock hit.

Indian Ocean nations acted quickly. In southern India, police, including some on horseback, spread out across Chennai's popular Marina Beach to enforce an evacuation. Sri Lankan tsunami alert teams on motorcycles drove along the coast near the capital, urging people to move to higher ground.

Warning buoys — put to sea after the 2004 disaster that killed 230,000 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.

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