Indonesia: Tsunami warning lifted after powerful earthquake strikes


Acehnese people run shortly after a powerful earthquake hit western coast of Sumatra in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on April 11, 2012. A massive earthquake struck off Indonesia's Sumatra island, US and Indonesian monitors reported, prompting an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami alert.


Chaideer Mahyuddin

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center lifted its tsunami watch for the Indian Ocean on Wednesday after fears receded following a magnitude 8.6 quake near the location of the 2004 tremblor that spawned a wave that killed 230,000 people. Tsunamis did hit Indonesia, but small waves of just 30 inches, according to Agence France Presse.

There were no initial reports of casualties or major damage.

Confusion reigned after the quake, which was initially reported as an 8.9, but revised down to 8.6. An aftershock of 8.2 was initially reported as an 8.8 by the Indonesian government. 

“The only problem we had was people panicking,” an Indonesian told The New York Times.

Just as tsunami fears rescinded, Indonesia reissued a tsunami watch after an 8.2 aftershock struck, according to Al Jazeera, but it was later rescinded.

Scientists think the 8.6 tremblor was a "strike-slip fault" which does not push the water column up and down, reducing the chance of a massive wave that would devastate low-lying population centers, according to the Times.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued a tsunami watch for Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Maldives and other Indian Ocean islands, Malaysia, Pakistan, Somalia, Oman, Iran, Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa and Singapore.

The "watch" meant that a tsunami was possible but not imminent. The United States Geological Survey estimated the original quake was 20 miles below Earth's crust; the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was magnitude 9.1 and was estimated to be at roughly the same depth and location. According to Reuters, the 2004 disaster killed 230,000 people in 13 countries around the Indian Ocean. 

In another story, Reuters wrote that the Indonesian government is dispatched a rescue team to Aceh province, which was devastated by the 2004 tsunami, as residents scrambled for higher ground.