Magnitude 8.6 Earthquake Hits Off Indonesia Coast, Tsunami Alerts Issued

Posted April 11th, 2012 at 7:15 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The U.S. Geological Survey says an 8.6-magnitude earthquake has struck off the northwestern coast of Indonesia, raising tsunami alerts throughout the Indian Ocean region.

The quake hit about 430 kilometers southwest of Banda Aceh, the provincial capital and largest city in the province of Aceh, at an estimated depth of 22 kilometers. An 8.2-magnitude aftershock was reported by the USGS about two hours after the initial earthquake.

In 2004, a giant 9.1-magnitude quake in roughly the same area off Indonesia's Sumatra island triggered an Indian Ocean tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people, about half of them in Aceh province.

Wednesday's quake was at approximately the same depth as the 2004 Indian Ocean quake. It reportedly rattled buildings as far away as Singapore, Thailand, and India.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for 28 countries and territories bordering the Indian Ocean. While it said it has detected a wave 30 centimeters tall near Aceh, it said a larger tsunami “may have already been destructive along some coasts.”

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the situation is “under control” in Aceh and there is no immediate threat from a tsunami. No casualties have been reported so far from the quake, which sent citizens in Aceh scurrying out of buildings and into the crowded streets. Electricity was also reportedly briefly cut in some areas of the province.

A tsunami warning remained in place for cities along the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Coastal evacuation orders have also been issued throughout the region, including in India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, where authorities are scrambling to evacuate beaches and warning residents to get to higher ground.

Torsak Wnichkhajorn, the former director of the Thai Meteorological Department, told VOA that the country's tsunami warning system has not detected a wave, but warned it is still possible that a tsunami could be generated.

If early projections do not change, the quake would be tied for the ninth largest since 1900. Earlier preliminary readings put the magnitude at 8.9.

The massive quake that devastated coastal northeastern Japan last year was a magnitude 9.0 and killed around 19,000 people.