– A tsunami watch was issued for countries across the Indian Ocean after a large earthquake hit waters off Indonesia on Wednesday, triggering widespread panic as residents along coastlines fled to high ground in cars and on the backs of motorcycles.
Some were crying. Others screamed “God as great” as they poured from their homes.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the 8.6-magnitude quake was centered 20 miles beneath the ocean floor around 269 miles from Aceh’s provincial capital.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami watch was in effect for Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Maldives and other Indian Ocean islands, Malaysia, Pakistan, Somalia, Oman, Iran, Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa and Singapore.
A tsunami watch means there is the potential for a tsunami, not that one is imminent.
Said, an official at Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency who goes by only one name, said a tsunami warning has been issued for cities all along the coast of Sumatra island.
There was chaos in the streets, with fierce shaking continuing for nearly four minutes.
“I was in the shower on the fifth floor of my hotel,” Timbang Pangaribuan told El Shinta radio from the city of Medan. “We all ran out. … We’re all standing outside now.”
He said one guest was injured when he jumped from the window of his room.
The tremor was felt in Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India. High-rise apartments and offices on Malaysia’s west coast shook for at least a minute.
Thailand’s National Disaster Warning Center issued an evacuation order to residents in six provinces along the country’s west coast, including the popular tourist destinations of Phuket, Krabi and Phang-Nga.
Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity.
A giant 9.1-magnitude quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, nearly three quarter of them in Aceh.