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Earthquake hits Indonesia, tsunami feared

world Updated: Sep 13, 2007 02:34 IST
Ahmad Pathoni
Ahmad Pathoni
Reuters
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A powerful quake measuring 7.9 struck near Indonesia's Sumatra island on Wednesday triggering tsunami warnings in Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka, officials said.

Indonesia's Global TV reported that several buildings in Padang, the capital of West Sumatra had collapsed, while Metro TV reported that some buildings had caught fire.

<b1>Indonesia's Meteorological agency said via an sms alert that the earthquake's epicentre was 159 km southwest of Bengkulu, which is in south Sumatra.

Residents in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand also felt the quake and some buildings were evacuated, which struck at just after 6 pm.

Budi, a police chief in Bengkulu, said on Indonesia's Elshinta radio that he felt a strong quake. "People panicked and tried to save themselves," he said.

He added that he heard a report that a three-story building had collapsed.

One resident in Bengkulu told Reuters that it was difficult to assess the damage because there had been a blackout.

"There's a blackout. The quake was very strong and I rushed out of my house. I don't know if there's any damage because it's dark," Edi Santoni, 38, told Reuters by phone.

Widyastuti, a 23-year-old IT worker in Jakarta who was in one of Bank Indonesia's offices in central Jakarta, said: "After praying I felt the earthquake. I panicked, threw away my shoes and ran through the emergency exit."

Malaysian authorities issued a tsunami warning for citizens to stay away from beaches. The alert was for four states fronting peninsular Malaysia's northwest coast, the same region hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami which also followed an Indonesian sub-sea quake.

"We are asking people to stay away from beaches," science ministry spokeswoman Ainon Mohd told Reuters when asked about the quake near Indonesia's Sumatra island.

"This not an evacuation. We are just telling people to stay away from the beaches," added Dr Mohd Rosaidi Cheabas, director of the Meteorology Department's seismological division.

The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services also issued a tsunami alert for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands but said no alert had been issued for the mainland yet after the earthquake in Indonesia.

"As yet there is no alert for the mainland," an official at the centre told Reuters.

Indonesia suffers frequent earthquakes, lying on an active seismic belt on part of the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire".