Magnitude 7.5 earthquake strikes Aceh

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Location of Aceh within Indonesia.

The Indonesian province of Aceh was struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake at 3:08 PM local time (8:08 AM GMT). The epicentre was 319 km (198 miles) off the coast of Sumatra, close to the island of Simeulue. At least three people have been killed and several buildings have been damaged. The same region was hit by an earthquake in 2004, that triggered a tsunami. In 2004 over 170,000 people were killed or missing.

According to local citizens the quake lasted about one minute and was felt in Banda Aceh, the province capital, approximately 300 km (185 mls) away, also in Meulaboh and Gunung Sitoli on Nias island. The U.S. Geological Survey, that reported the earthquake, says that no local tsunami warning has been issued.

Minutes after the quake hit, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning that parts of the Sumatran coast were at risk of a possible tsunami but was later cancelled. Japan's meteorological agency said India's Andaman and Nicobar island chain was also at risk.

Indonesia's meteorology and geophysics agency recorded at least two aftershocks about 20 minutes after the first tremors, one measuring 5.5 and the other 5.3 on the Richter scale. Budi Waluyo, an official at the National Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said the quake occurred about 30 kilometres beneath the ground. The US Geological Survey measured the quake at 7.6 on the Richter scale. "The quake has no tsunami potential because it's happening under the ground, not the sea," Waluyo said.