A massive earthquake with an initial magnitude of 8.6 struck off the west coast of Northern Sumatra in Indonesia on Wednesday, triggering a tsunami alert for the entire Indian Ocean region.
The quake at a depth of 33 kilometer beneath the ocean floor, about 495 kilometer off Banda Aceh, capital of northern Aceh province, occurred at 2:38 p.m. local time, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.
Strong aftershocks were also reported. The quake led to power outage in several parts of Indonesia. Traffic jams were reported in Banda Aceh, as residents fled to higher ground. wailing of Sirens and Koran recitals from mosques reflected the panic.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) said quakes of such a magnitude "have the potential to generate a widespread destructive tsunami that can affect coastlines across the entire Indian Ocean basin."
Small tsunami measuring 17 cm is heading for coast of Aceh, a PTWC official was quoted as saying.
PTWC said it was not yet known whether a tsunami had been generated, but advised authorities in the region to take "appropriate action in response to the possibility of a widespread destructive tsunami."
A tsunami watch is in effect for Indonesia, India, Sri lanka, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, Maldives, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, Pakistan, Somalia, Oman, Madagascar, Iran, UAE, Yemen, Comores, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Crozet Islands, Kerguelen islands, South Africa and Singapore.
A tsunami warning was issued also by the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology & Geophysics Agency.
Tremors were felt in many parts of some of these countries, reports said.
Forecast points in India include Great Nicobar, Little Andaman, Port Blair, North Andaman, Chennai, Kakinada, Thiruvananthapuram, Mangalore, Mumbai and Gulf of Kutch.
BBC quoted Bruce Presgrave of the USGS as saying that although the possibility of a tsunami cannot be ruled out, the nature of this quake indicates lesser chances of generating the killer waves, as the earth had moved horizontally, rather than vertically, therefore had not displaced large volumes of water.
The epicenter of the quake was not far from the fault line that triggered the massive 2004 Asian tsunami, which killed more than 230,000 in a dozen countries.
Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, sits on the Pacific 'Ring of Fire,' the edge of a tectonic plate prone to seismic turmoil.
by RTT Staff Writer
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