Official: 50 dead on island after quake
'Small' tsunami detected in Indian Ocean after 8.7 temblor
Monday, March 28, 2005 Posted: 3:15 PM EST (2015 GMT)
The earthquake was centered off Sumatra on the same fault line as the December 26 temblor.
(CNN) -- Fifty people were killed and about 300 homes were destroyed on the island of Nias, near the epicenter of a massive earthquake that struck off the coast of Indonesia on Monday, a government official there told CNN.
About 100 people were injured, and many others were believed buried under rubble, Agus Mendrova said.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 people were running about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to hilltops for safety in case of a tsunami, he said.
Meanwhile, a tidal gauge has detected a small tsunami in the Indian Ocean several hundred miles southwest of the earthquake.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that an instrument near the Cocos Islands recorded the passing wave, but the magnitude of the "small" tsunami was not clear.
The agency said no major tsunami has been observed near epicenter of the earthquake which was upgraded from a magnitude of 8.2 to 8.7. An aftershock measuring 6.0 struck 30 minutes after the initial quake.
Scientists say the threat of a tsunami striking Indonesia and Thailand may have passed because a wave like the one that hit the region on December 26 would have reached those countries almost immediately. Monday's quake struck at 11:09 a.m. ET (1609 GMT).
Officials in Kuala Lumpur issued an official tsunami warning for the west coast of Malaysia and the east coast of Sumatra. The warning has a six-hour window, and is based on the December earthquake, which struck at 9 a.m. local time and was followed four hours later by the tsunami.
A damaging tsunami is still possible and should be "presumed," said Robert Cessaro of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The quake may have sent its energy further to the south than last year's quake, which measured above 9 and ruptured to the north, he said.
"So all that pressure to the north would have been relieved" by that quake, said Cessaro. "We think this event probably ruptured to the south, with the beam of energy probably propagated to the south toward Mauritius and the Rodrigues."
Residents of coastal regions around the Indian Ocean have been rapidly evacuating after the earthquake .
In Thailand, thousands of people in the six provinces affected by the December 26 tsunami were moving to higher ground or 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) inland, the governor of Phang Nga province said.
Sri Lanka also issued a warning that the earthquake may spawn a tsunami that would reach Sri Lanka's shores by about 3 a.m. Tuesday (4 p.m. ET Monday) and urged those living in low lying areas to move to higher ground.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has recommended residents within 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of the epicenter evacuate coastal regions.
The quake was centered on the same fault line where the December 26 earthquake launched a tsunami that killed at least 175,000 people.
There was a report of heavy damage on Simeulue Island in Indonesia, said Bernd Schell, head of tsunami operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Prass Prawoto, an aid worker in Banda Aceh -- which was severely damaged by the December 26 tsunami and quake -- said Indonesians were moving to higher ground, fearing a repeat of the earlier tsunami. But, he said, he had not heard of any injuries.
CNN producer Kathy Quiano, watching television reports from Jakarta, said there was widespread panic in Banda Aceh, as residents rushed inland. Electricity and phone service were out in major sections of the city.
A number of traffic accidents occurred as a result, and people were injured, she said, citing local television reports. "People are closely watching for the water that may come in," she said.
Charles McCreary, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said scientists believed another tsunami is possible, but he could not be certain if the quake, which was 203 kilometers (126 miles) from Sibolga on Sumatra Island, would cause another deadly wave.
U.S. ready to help
The United States is moving into "battle mode" in the wake of the quake, alerting all the U.S. posts in the region and reaching out to aid workers, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.
"We're applying what we've learned from the previous earthquake, so that we can be prepared to be responsive quickly and in a meaningful way," he said.
USGS spokesman Doug Blake said there had been no reports of tsunami activity nearly 90 minutes after the quake struck.
"At this point in time we don't know what type of fault occurred ... and that is critical information we just don't have yet," he said. "It is in the aftershock zone of the December 26 quake. It's a little bit south, but it's on the same fault."
Experts agreed the quake was massive. The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 8.7; the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said it was 8.5.
"This earthquake has the potential to generate a widely destructive tsunami in the ocean or seas near the earthquake," NOAA said in a statement on its Web site. "Authorities in those regions should be aware of this possibility and take immediate action."
Asked whether evacuations are taking place, U.S. Geological Survey spokesman Don Blakeman said, "I certainly hope so."
A 'great' quake
The quake is considered a "great" earthquake, the largest of seven grades. The grades are very minor, minor, light, moderate, strong, major and great.
Tsunamis are distinguished from normal coastal surf by their great length and speed. A single wave in a tsunami series might be 160 kilometers (100 miles) long and race across the ocean at 960 kph (600 mph).
When it approaches a coastline, the wave slows dramatically, but it also rises to great heights because the enormous volume of water piles up in shallow coastal bays.
The December 26 quake triggered a massive tsunami that devastated coastlines in nearly a dozen nations in Africa and Asia. (Full story)