Massive quake off Indonesian waters triggers tsunami fears

Bangkok: A massive earthquake of 8.7 magnitude hit waters off Indonesia triggering tsunami fears across the Indian Ocean nations, including India, reviving memories of the 2004 devastation that had claimed tens of thousands of lives in the region. The quake struck off Indonesia`s Sumatra island, US and Indonesian monitors reported, prompting an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami alert.

The tremors were felt far and wide in southern and eastern parts of India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. The quake`s magnitude was 8.7 on Richter scale and it struck 431-kilometres off the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh. In India, tremors were felt in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andaman and Nicobar islands, Assam and West Bengal and Odisha.

Banda Aceh in Indonesia was near the epicentre of a devastating 9.1-magnitude quake in 2004 that triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, which killed 220,000 people, including 170,000 in Aceh.

Residents in Banda Aceh reported the ground shaking violently. The ground shook for nearly five minutes with telephone connections going down briefly. Terrified people left their dwellings and ran for cover. People were trying to leave affected area, with whatever modes of transport available. Traffic jams were seen everywhere.

US monitors issued an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami watch but said it was not yet certain a giant wave had been generated. "Earthquakes of this size have the potential to generate a widespread destructive tsunami that can affect coastlines across the entire Indian Ocean basin," the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

With tremors felt in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka tsunami warnings have been issued.

A big tremor was felt in the island resort of Phuket in Thailand. Phone lines to the area are jammed. At least one luxury hotel was evacuating people to higher ground. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka issued a tsunami warning across the island and asked residents in the coastal belt move inland. "We advise people to move inland at least a kilometer from the coast", a disaster management centre official said.

Officials said if the quake in Sumathra triggered a Tsunami, Sri Lanka`s southern coastal Dondra should experience it by 1609 IST. The quake in Indonesia was felt in Sri Lanka as people moved out of buildings around 2.15 local time. Two thirds of Sri Lanka`s coastal belt was devastated by the December 2004 Tsunami which killed over 30,000 people.