Earthquake triggers tsunami in western Indonesia

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The Independent Online

A massive earthquake hit Indonesia on Wednesday, triggering a tsunami in the town of Padang and warnings for much of the Indian Ocean region, meteorological officials said. At least one person was killed and dozens injured.

The 8.2-magnitude quake off Sumatra island caused tall buildings to sway in a least four countries. It struck at a depth of around 10 kilometers (six miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

A wave of up to three meters (yards) was reported to have hit Padang about 20 minutes after the quake, said Suhardjono, a senior official with Indonesia's meteorological agency, adding that a communication blackout was making it difficult to get more information.

Several buildings along the coastline were damaged or collapsed, residents said, and phone lines and electricity also were cut.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for wide areas of the region.

"Earthquakes of this size have the potential to generate a widespread destructive tsunami that can affect coastlines across the entire Indian Ocean Basin," it said, warning that it could hit nearby countries within one to three hours.

Indonesia lifted its alert more than two hours after the quake, saying there was no longer a potential for a destructive wave.

Most of the damage appeared to be from the 6:10 p.m. (1110 GMT) quake.

At least one person was killed and dozens injured in Bengkulu, the town closest to the epicenter, Salamun Harius, a local government official, told El Shinta radio.

Panicked residents were running from their houses in all directions.

"We think our neighborhood is high enough. God willing, if the water comes, it will not touch us here," Wati Said told The Associated Press by mobile telephone. "We are all afraid."

The quake caused tall buildings to sway in at least four countries.

Office workers streamed down the stairwells in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, 600 kilometers (375 miles) away. Some people in high-rises in neighboring Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand also felt the quake.

An official of Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center, Passakorn Khanthasap, said the center had sent out cell phone text messages to hundreds of officials working in six southern provinces to be on alert.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

A massive Dec. 26, 2004, earthquake triggered a tsunami off the coast of Sumatra that killed more than 160,000 in a dozen nations, most of them in Indonesia's Aceh province. The 9.0 temblor was 29 kilometers (18 miles) deep, according to USGS.