Thu, Sep 13, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Big Sumatra quake panics Indonesians

WORRIED NEIGHBORS Residents of high-rises in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand felt the quake, which was followed by several major aftershocks

AGENCIES , JAKARTA

A massive earthquake hit Indonesia yesterday, triggering a tsunami in the town of Padang and warnings for much of the Indian Ocean region, meteorological officials said. tAt least two people were killed and 100 others injured.

The 8.2-magnitude quake off Sumatra badly damaged buildings along the coast and caused tall buildings to sway in a least four countries. It struck at a depth of around 10km, the US Geological Survey said.

A wave of up to 3m was reported to have hit Padang about 20 minutes after the quake, said Suhardjono, a senior official with Indonesia's meteorological agency, adding that a communication blackout was making it difficult to get more information.

Several buildings along the coastline were damaged or collapsed, residents said, and phone lines and electricity also were cut.

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 it could hit nearby countries within one to three hours.

Indonesia lifted its alert more than two hours after the 6:10pm quake, saying there was no longer a potential for a destructive wave.

However, it later issued a new tsunami warning after a fresh earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale hit south Sumatra.

The second quake was one of a series of powerful aftershocks that rocked the area last night.

The meteorological agency said via telephone text message that the second quake struck 76km northwest of Lais Bengkulu in south Sumatra at a depth of 18km.

At least one person was killed and dozens injured in Bengkulu, the town closest to the epicenter of the first quake, Salamun Harius, a local government official, told El Shinta radio.

Panicked residents were running from their houses in all directions.

"We think our neighborhood is high enough. God willing, if the water comes, it will not touch us here," Wati Said said by mobile telephone. "We are all afraid."

Office workers streamed down the stairwells in Jakarta, 600km away.

But the quake also caused tall buildings to sway in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

An official of Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center, Passakorn Khanthasap, said the center had sent out cellphone text messages to hundreds of officials working in six southern provinces to be on alert.

The Indian government issued a tsunami alert for the Andaman and Nicobar islands, some of which are just 240km north of Sumatra, and officials were telling local authorities to take precautions.

Sri Lanka's Tsunami Warning Center asked all people living close to the sea to move at least 200m from the coast.

"This earthquake has occurred on the well-known Indonesian tectonic zone, which generates earthquakes of this size on a regular basis, so it comes as no surprise," seismologist Alice Walker of the British Geological Survey said in a statement.

A massive Dec. 26, 2004, earthquake triggered a tsunami off the coast of Sumatra that killed more than 160,000 in a dozen nations, most of them in Indonesia's Aceh Province.

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