A 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia’s western island of Sumatra, the US Geological Survey said. The country has issued a tsunami warning, the National Meteorolgical Agency reported.
The shallow quake, which hit southwest of the island of Sumatra on Wednesday (2nd March), had a depth of 10 kilometres (6 miles). The epicenter was located 808 kilometres (502 miles) southwest of Padang.
There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, but almost 1,000 Mentawai residents were at a tsunami evacuation shelter as of 9:30pm Malaysian time.
Shallower earthquakes are more likely to cause damage than deeper ones. The USGS originally categorised the quake as a magnitude 8.2, and later an 8.1, before lowering it to a 7.9.
Indonesia has issued a tsunami warning for West Sumatra, North Sumatra, and Aceh, according to the National Meteorological Agency. Thailand’s National Disaster Warning Centre had urged the public to be prepared for potential tsunamis, with the quake hitting 1,436km off the Thai resort island of Phuket. A tsunami watch was also issued for parts of Australia’s western coast, but has since been cancelled.
The tremors could be felt in parts of Singapore, a witness told AFP, noting that the ground shook for about 15 seconds.
“I could feel my bed moving and I saw the wind chimes swaying even though my windows were shut. I suspected it’s tremor from a quake in a neighbouring country because this was what happened some years back during the Sumatra earthquake,” W. Ong, who lives in Sengkang, told the agency.
In 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck 160 kilometres (99 miles) off the western coast of northern Sumatra, resulting in a tsunami. A total of 230,000 people were killed across a dozen countries, including Thailand. The disaster killed 126,741 people in the Indonesian province of Aceh alone.
Indonesia straddles the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”, a highly seismically active zone where neighbouring tectonic plates violently clash, resulting in a large number of earthquakes and volcanoes.