Powerful Quakes Hit Sumatra

A powerful earthquake off western Indonesia triggered warnings of a potentially destructive tsunami across much of the Indian Ocean region Wednesday, meteorological agencies said. [IJ Ed. Note: Several powerful aftershocks also triggered Tsunami warnings, but as of 7:00 a.m. EDT, all warnings have been cancelled. At least nine people were reportedly killed by the quake].

The U.S. Geological Survey said the underwater quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.9 and hit at about 6:10 p.m. (1110 GMT [2:10 p.m. EDT]). It was centered 105 kilometers (65 miles) southwest of the island of Sumatra at a depth of 15.6 kilometers (9.7 miles).

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for wide areas of the region. “Earthquakes of this size have the potential to generate a widespread destructive tsunami that can affect coastlines across the entire Indian Ocean Basin,” it said, warning that waves could hit Indonesia and Australia within an hour, and Sri Lanka and India within three.

Panicked residents in Bengkulu – the Sumatran town closest to the epicenter – said people were running inland but there was no indication of a tsunami 1 1/2 hours after the temblor. Many houses were destroyed, one person told the news portal detik.com, but he had no word about casualties.

Electricity and phone lines were down. “Everyone is running out of their houses in every direction,” Wati Said told The Associated Press by mobile telephone. “We think our neighborhood is high enough. God willing, if the water comes, it will not touch us here.”
“We are all afraid.”

The quake caused tall buildings to sway in at least four countries. Office workers streamed down the stairwells in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, 600 kilometers (375 miles) away. Some people in high-rises in neighboring Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand also felt the quake.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

A massive Dec. 26, 2004, earthquake that triggered a tsunami off the coast of Sumatra which killed more than 160,000 in a dozen nations, most of them in Indonesia’s Aceh province. The 9.0 temblor and was 29 kilometers (18 miles) deep, according to USGS.