Panic in Sumatra after new earthquake

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April 10, 2005

South Asia: Countries affected by the earlier earthquake on December 26

People living on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have fled their homes after an earthquake of magnitude of 6.7 hit the area earlier today. Although the quake was not powerful enough to cause a tsunami, the event sparked fears of a repeat of the December 26 magnitude 9.3 earthquake in which around 300,000 people died. Today's tremor struck 70 miles southwest of Padang, a city in western Sumatra, yet no damage has been reported so far.

An Indonesia Geophysics and Meteorology Agency official said: "Many people in Padang are panicking. People have left their houses, especially those living on the coast."

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, said in a statement: "Earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a few hundred kilometres of the earthquake epicentre."

Scientists are cautious that another major earthquake could occur along the Indian Ocean faultline, which has seen a number of minor tremors since the December 26 quake. Although most countries have a contingency plan for earthquake related disasters, a tsunami warning system for South Asia will not be ready until the end of 2006.