"Initially the reports are that there's been a lot of destruction in terms of buildings that have collapsed as a result of this powerful earthquake," Shaista Aziz of Oxfam in London told CBS Radio News.
Oxfam, the U.N. and other relief agencies rushed to ferry aid supplies to the island, which bore the brunt of the quake's force almost three months to the day after an even bigger temblor nearby sent killer waves crashing into coastlines around the Indian Ocean's rim.
A magnitude 5.8 temblor hit off Indonesia's coast Tuesday, the latest in a series of aftershocks following the powerful earthquake that hit the region the day before, Hong Kong seismologists said.
The temblor was recorded in Hong Kong at 1:22 p.m. and was centered 217 miles south-southeast of Banda Aceh. Earlier in the day, the observatory recorded a 5.7-magnitude quake centered about 380 miles south-southeast of Banda Aceh.
The initial quake hit late at night, throwing people literally out of their beds, and many quickly took to the roads, fleeing for high ground, reports CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen.
Fears of a second tsunami faded Tuesday when seas failed to rise up in the hours after the overnight quake — but not before triggering panic in nations still traumatized by the earlier disaster. Many took to motorbikes or motor vehicles to flee.
Buildings which were made of cement which had survived the previous earthquake collapsed and toppled, because the earthquake lasted for up to three minutes, and many people were trapped inside, reports CBS News' Stephen Fleay.
An overflight Tuesday of Gunung Sitoli, the island's biggest city, indicated about 30 percent of its buildings were destroyed, and there was significant damage in the island's second biggest town, Teluk Dalam.
Indonesia's vice president told a Jakarta radio station that the death toll could rise to between 1,000 and 2,000, based on the amount of destruction to buildings. Other officials said the dead numbered in the hundreds, not thousands.
The quake damaged Gunung Sitoli's airstrip and prevented all but small planes from landing. The Indonesian military flew The Associated Press and other news organizations over the island to inspect the damage.
Fishing villages along the coastline and inland appeared to be largely unaffected.
In Gunung Sitoli, people could be seen digging through the rubble as smoke from burning buildings hung in the air. A steeple had been knocked off a church on the mainly Christian island.