Massive quakes frightens Indian Ocean countries
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia - The Associated Press
Acehnese women hug each other and pray shortly after a powerfull earthquake hit the western coast of Sumatera in Aceh. AFP photoTwo massive earthquakes triggered back-to-back tsunami warnings for Indonesia yesterday, sending panicked residents fleeing to high ground in cars and on the backs of motorcycles. No deadly waves or serious damage resulted, and a watch for much of the Indian Ocean was lifted after a few hours.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the first 8.6-magnitude quake was a shallow 22 kilometers, hitting in the sea 435 kilometers from Aceh’s provincial capital. Just as the region was sighing relief, an 8.2-magnitude aftershock followed. Women and children cried in Aceh, where memories are still raw of a 2004 tsunami that killed 170,000 people in the province alone. Others screamed “God is great” as they poured from their homes or searched frantically for separated family members.
An alert that followed from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii advised countries all along the rim of the Indian Ocean, from Australia and India to as far off as Africa, that a seismically charged wave could head their way.
Sirens sounded along coastlines and warnings spread like wildfire by mobile phone text messaging. Though often chaotic, evacuations began immediately with streets clogged with traffic, especially in Aceh. The only wave to hit, though, was less than 80 centimeters high, rolling to Indonesia’s emptied coastline.
Experts said yesterday’s quakes did not have the potential to create massive tsunamis because the friction and shaking occurred horizontally, not vertically. The earth’s tectonic plates slid against each other, creating more of a vibration in the water. The giant 9.1-magnitude quake and tsunami on Dec. 26, 2004, killed 230,000 people in about a dozen nations.