Tsunami fears rise after latest Indonesian temblor

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Monday, March 28, 2005

After a magnitude 8.7 earthquake rocked Sumatra late Monday, local populations were reminded of the devastating tsunamis of December 26, 2004, that killed 273,000 people as they scoured the shores and seaside areas of countries exposed to the Indian Ocean, although three hours later with only one small tsunami observed the threat had passed.

Still, according to reports, thousands of coastal residents near the Indian Ocean were evacuating to higher ground for the night in case the experts were wrong. Reports also say Sri Lankan authorities urged islanders near the coast to move at least two kilometres inland.

"It looks like many people have left the coasts. I don’t know exactly how many people but they are moving away from the sea shores to the interior areas," Dr. Unni Krishnan, coordinator for relief agency Action Aid said in an interview with a reporter from The Scotsman.

Minutes after data from the earthquake started coming in, half-way around the world from Sumatra, an emergency response center kicked into action. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii issued a tsunami alert - advising "immediate action" and evacuation procedures were advised for some coastal areas.

"Authorities in those regions should be aware of this possibility and take immediate action. This action should include evacuation of coasts within 1,000 kilometers of the epicenter and close monitoring to determine the need for evacuation further away," the PTWC alert said.

The PTWC said they did detect a small tsunami that stuck the Cocos Islands south of the quake's epicenter. However the PTWC went on to say that if no tsunami activity was observed within three hours of the 4.10pm UTC quake, there was no further danger. That time has passed.

A spokesman for the United States Geological Service in an interview with the AFP said when such a large quake strikes, the U.S. government sends out e-mails, faxes and telephone messages to nearby agencies warning them of possible aftershocks, or likely tsunami activity.

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