Massive Aceh Quake Triggers Tsunami Alert

Residents of Banda Aceh flee after massive earthquake struck Aceh province Wednesday afternoon.
Banda Aceh, TAG  — A massive under sea earthquake struck off Indonesia's Aceh province on Wednesday, triggering an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami alert and evacuation orders to clear people away from the coast.
The quake's magnitude was 8.6, according a revised reading from the US Geological Survey, and struck 431 kilometres (268 miles) off the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh where terrified residents poured into the streets. However the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) put at 8,5 magnitude.

The quake felt for almost five minutes by residents in Banda Aceh. People who working at the office run out of the office as residents flee from home. Some people had to sit outside the houses and building as the quake was very strong.
The city was near the epicenter of a devastating 9.3-magnitude quake in 2004 that triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean which killed 220,000 people, including 170,000 in Aceh province which lies on the northern tip of Sumatra.
The latest tremor was felt as far afield as Thailand, where skyscrapers in the capital Bangkok swayed. India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand all issued evacuation orders.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said there was "so far no tsunami threat" after the quake but that the country remained on alert.
Residents in Banda Aceh reported the ground shook for about five minutes, first mildly and then growing violent.
"There are people trying to evacuate, some are praying and children at a school were panicking as teachers tried to get them out," resident in Banda Aceh said.
"There are traffic jams everywhere as people are trying to get away from the coast -- many are on motorcycles," he said, adding that telephone connections and electricity were patchy.
The US Geological Survey (USGS), which documents quakes worldwide, said the first Aceh quake was centred at a depth of 33 kilometer (20 miles), about 495 kilometer from Banda Aceh, the provincial capital.
US monitors issued an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami watch but 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," the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
Sri Lanka issued a tsunami warning across the island and the disaster management centre asked residents on the coast to move inland to avoid being hit by any large waves.
A government statement said waves could hit the island's eastern coast by about 1040 GMT and urged an orderly evacuation of the coastal strip.
In the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, nervous crowds gathered on the streets after the strong quake.
"There was a first jolt for five seconds, then a pause and then a really big one. It was really frightening, the whole room was shaking," said 42-year-old tourist Maria Teresa Pizarro from the Philippines.
"You could hear the wood in the furniture cracking, the curtains were moving and the ceiling fan was rattling. I just picked up the children and ran downstairs," she said from the city's coastal Galle Face hotel.
Thailand issued an evacuation order for its Andaman coast, a popular tourist destination. The National Disaster Warning Centre advised people in the area to move to higher places and stay as far away as possible from the sea.
"All people along the Andaman coast must evacuate to safe areas. We expect a tsunami 1.6 to 2.0 metres high to hit Phuket and Phang Nga at 5:40 pm (1040 GMT)," the centre's director Somsak Khaosuwan said on Thai television.
India issued a red high-level tsunami warning for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located in the Indian Ocean, and lower alerts for the populous coasts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states in the southeast of the country.
Australian Bonnie Muddle, vacationing in the Thai resort island of Phuket, said people were being evacuated from popular tourist areas including Krabi and Phang Nga bay.
"Everyone is getting a little concerned over here," she said as quoted by AFP.
The catastrophic tsunami of December 26, 2004, was generated by a 9.2-magnitude earthquake that hit at a location in the ocean about 200 kilometers away from the latest quake.[]
Massive Aceh Quake Triggers Tsunami Alert Massive Aceh Quake Triggers Tsunami Alert Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on April 11, 2012 Rating: 5

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