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Updated: April 7, 2010 20:55 IST

Quake hits Indonesia, triggers tsunami alert

AP
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Residents flee their homes after an earthquake in Banda Aceh on Sumatra island, Indonesia on Wednesday. A 7.7 earthquake shook the island early Wednesday, prompting a brief tsunami warning.
AP Residents flee their homes after an earthquake in Banda Aceh on Sumatra island, Indonesia on Wednesday. A 7.7 earthquake shook the island early Wednesday, prompting a brief tsunami warning.

A 7.7 earthquake shook Indonesia’s northwest island of Sumatra early Wednesday, prompting a brief tsunami warning and sending residents rushing for higher ground. There were no immediate reports of widespread damage.

The quake struck at 5.15 am (3.45 am IST) and was centred 200 km northwest of the coastal town of Sibolga in Sumatra at a depth of about 50 km, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It had earlier said the quake measured 7.8.

“So far no damage or casualties have been reported and the situation is under control,” Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf said.

The Indonesia Meteorology and Geophysics Agency and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Honolulu issued tsunami warnings following the quake, but lifted them two hours later.

At least five strong aftershocks measuring up to 5.2 were recorded, the meteorology agency said.

The quake, which struck as people in the region were preparing for morning prayers, caused panic in North Sumatra’s capital of Medan, 215 km from the epicentre, and other cities in the region. Electricity was cut in Medan, Banda Aceh — the provincial capital of Aceh, and other areas.

People in several cities along the southeastern coast of Sumatra as well as Sinabang on Simeulue island and Gunung Sitoli on nearby Nias island poured into the streets and rushed to higher ground after the quake.

“Rumours about a tsunami panicked villagers living near the beach,” said Eddy Effendi, a resident on Nias island. “They ran away on motorbikes and cars or by climbing the hills. There was panic and chaos everywhere, but I don’t see serious damage or injuries in my village.”

Local network Metro TV reported that a dormitory for nurses partially collapsed in Aceh’s Singkil district and one woman suffered minor injuries in the rush to get out of the building.

Residents in Sibolga said the shaking lasted more than a minute and utility poles in the area were knocked down.

The quake was felt as far away as the outskirts of Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur, about 500 km away. There were no reports of damage there.

A 2004 tsunami triggered by a magnitude-9.2 earthquake in the same part of Indonesia killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries on the Indian Ocean basin.

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