A strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck off Aceh province in the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra early on Wednesday killing at least 25 people and injuring more than a dozen others, the Indonesian disaster management agency said.

Aceh was devastated by a quake-triggered tsunami that killed at least 170,000 people in Indonesia in 2004. But seismologist said there is no tsunami alert for this time.

The shallow quake hit 10 kilometres north of Reuleuet at 5:03 am local time (2203 GMT Tuesday).  At least five aftershocks followed the quake which struck at dawn, as some in the predominantly Muslim region prepared for morning prayers.

“Eighteen have died so far, based on data from the hospital. Some of the fatalities are children,” said Saed Mulyadi, deputy district chief of Pidie Jaya, the region hit hardest by the quake.

Mulyadi said there were seven children among the victims and added that a local hospital was overwhelmed by the number of people arriving with injuries.

“The hospital here couldn’t take the patients, so we sent some to a neighbouring district,” he said.

collapsed-mosque

Mosques, stores and houses collapsed in Pidie Jaya where heavy equipment has been deployed for the effort to search for survivors. (AFP)

Local resident Hasbi Jaya, 37, said his family was asleep when the powerful quake struck.

“We immediately ran outside the house but it crumbled. Everything from the roof to the floor collapsed, and was destroyed,” he said. “I looked around and all my neighbours’ houses were also completely destroyed.”

The local disaster management agency said rescue efforts were under way to save those trapped beneath collapsed buildings.

“Some people are still trapped inside shophouses, and we are trying to evacuate them using heavy machines and by hand,” local agency head Puteh Manaf said.

Seismologists said the earthquake was felt across much of Aceh province.

earthquake

Residents gather around a collapsed building after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the town of Pidie, Indonesia’s Aceh province in northern Sumatra, on December 7, 2016. (AFP)

In the coastal town of Sigli, people panicked and fled their houses to seek shelter away from the sea.

“We are now evacuating to Tijue because we are afraid of a tsunami,” said Nilawati, one of those heading several kilometres inland.

Seismic and volcanic activities are frequent in Indonesia, a country located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide.

Last June, a 6.5-magnitude quake struck off the west of Sumatra damaging scores of buildings and injuring eight people.

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