|Indian Ocean on tsunami alert after quake|
Indian Ocean coastlines placed on tsunami alert after 8.7-magnitude earthquake off coast of Aceh province.
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2012 10:45
|A tsunami warning has been issued in the Indian Ocean after a powerful earthquake off the coast of Indonesia's Aceh province, prompting evacuations from coastal regions and alarm in areas struck by a devastating wave in 2004.|
Wednesday's quake was measured at a preliminary 8.7-magnitude, according to the US Geological Survey, which revised down an earlier 8.9 estimate.
A tsunami measuring 17cm had been generated and was headed for the Aceh province, Victor Sardina, a geophysicist at the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said.
He said the total vertical measurement of the wave, according to monitoring gauges, was 35cm, making the height 17cm.
"It doesn't look like a major tsunami," Sardina said. "But we are still monitoring as tsunamis come in waves."
Phillip Charlesworth, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, told Al Jazeera that the quake lasted for about three minutes.
"The shaking was quite violent, from conversations with our staff," he said. "There appears to be no apparent damage. We certainly don’t know what the humanitarian impact is as yet. There are no reports of any tsunamis coming ashore, although local authorities are taking precaution of evacuating coastal communities."
Indonesia's geophysical agency said it had not received any reports of damage from the Aceh quake or a rise in water levels.
The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at a depth of 33km, 495km from Aceh's provincial capital, Banda Aceh.
A tsunami watch was issued across the whole Indian Ocean, including Australia, Pakistan, Somalia, Madagascar, and many other countries.
A tsunami watch means there is the potential for a tsunami, not that one is imminent.
The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said it was not yet certain a giant wave had been generated.
"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.
People in Banda Aceh jumped into cars and the backs of motorcycles, clogging streets as they fled to high ground.
Syarina Hasibuan in Jakarta told Al Jazeera that people panicked across the island of Sumatra, running out of buildings and gathering in the streets.
“It will take about one hour until people from the meteorological agency can say if it is safe or not."
People on Twitter said tremors were felt in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and India. High-rise apartments and offices on Malaysia's west coast shook for at least a minute.
In Sri Lanka, residents on the coast were ordered to move inland to avoid being hit by any large waves.
A government statement said waves could hit the island's eastern port district of Trincomalee by about 1040 GMT.
"There is a strong possibility of a tsunami hitting the island after the earthquake in Indonesia," meteorological department deputy director M D Dayananda said.
He said the quake in Indonesia was felt in Sri Lanka, which is 1,340km northwest from the location of the quake.
People near the coast in six Thai provinces were ordered to move to higher places and stay as far away as possible from the sea. The Phuket airport, right on the coastline, was closed.
Al Jazeera's Aela Callan, reporting from Bangkok, said phone lines were jammed as people were checking on their loved ones.
"We are hearing in some southern provinces there are now tsunami alerts sounding," she said. "Thailand is quite prepared for this, they hold drills regularly."
Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity.
A 9.1-magnitude quake off the country on December 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, nearly three quarter of them in Aceh.