Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Massive Quake Off Sumatra Coast; Tsunami Feared

It is 3:00 in the morning here in Singapore. We are awake - waiting to see if this new earthquake of 8.2 creates another repeat of what we felt here in Asia on December 26. So far, it looks like it might not have created an tsunami's. We hope that we will be safe.

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A massive 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra Monday close to where a quake triggered a tsunami that left nearly 300,000 people dead or missing across Asia, residents and officials said.

The latest quake had the potential to cause a "widely destructive tsunami" and authorities should take "immediate action," including evacuating coastlines within 600 miles of the epicenter, the Pacific tsunami warning center said.

Malaysia urged residents along parts of its west coast to evacuate to higher areas.
Thailand, India and Sri Lanka also immediately issued tsunami warnings in coastal areas. Sirens were ringing in the eastern Sri Lankan town of Trincomalee, residents said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey (news - web sites) told Reuters the quake struck 125 miles west northwest of Sibolga, Sumatra or 880 miles northwest of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta at 1609 GMT, close to where the 9.0 magnitude quake struck in December.

Tens of thousands of people ran out of their homes in many parts of Sumatra, and in Singapore and Malaysia. But there were no immediate reports of casualties.

"It was very strong," said a telephone operator in the Sumatran city of Medan, in western Indonesia. "We all ran out of the building."

An NGO official in Banda Aceh, the town worst hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami, sent out a telephone message saying thousands of people fled their homes and headed for higher ground after feeling what he described as "a very damn big earthquake."

Panic spread in many areas along the west coast of Malaysia, the Bernama news agency said. "It felt stronger than on Dec. 26," said Arumugam Gopal, a resident of the town of Penang.

U.S. Geological Survey spokesman Don Blakeman said Monday's quake was considered a "great earthquake" because it was larger than a magnitude 8. He said it was an aftershock from December's temblor but was a "very serious earthquake in its own right."

But the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake had the "potential to generate a widely destructive tsunami in the ocean or seas near the earthquake."

"Authorities can assume the danger has passed if no tsunami waves are observed in the region near the epicenter within three hours of the earthquake," it added.