Thursday, October 01, 2009

:( 7.7-magnitude quake hit South Sumatra, tremors felt in Peninsula (UPDATED)

KUALA LUMPUR: A powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia's south Sumatra at 6.16pm today, sending tremors across several areas in Peninsular Malaysia.

The Meteorological Department said the quake's epicentre was 60km southwest of Padang and 452km southwest of Melaka. It said it was monitoring the situation closely.

In the Klang Valley, people rushed out of building which were shaking from the tremors.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the quake was 7.9 on the Richter scale and that a tsunami alert had been issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.

AFP reported that the quake that struck off Indonesia’s Sumatra island today, destroyed large buildings and starting fires in the major city of Padang, geologists and reports said.

“A number of hotels in Padang have been destroyed,” Indonesian geophysics and meteorology agency tsunami warning head Rahmat Triyono said, adding the agency did not release a tsunami alert.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii however issued a tsunami watch for Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Thailand. The tsunami alert has since been cancelled.

“Up to now we haven’t been able to reach Padang, communications have been cut,” Triyono said.

The quake struck at sea at 5:16 pm (1016 GMT) at a fairly deep 87 kilometres (54 miles), 53 kilometres northwest of Padang city in West Sumatra province, the United States Geological Survey said.

Local news channel Metro TV reported fires amid the wreckage in Padang, a city of 900,000, where panicked residents had run onto the streets as the quake hit.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

The quake was felt in the capital Jakarta 940 kilometres away.

Geologists have said Padang, which lies near the colliding Indo-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates, is the most likely in the country to fall victim to the next major quake.

The city is most at risk from a final segment along the zone shifting to unleash a massive amount of energy.

The zone’s other segments have already cracked, including a large portion off Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra, which triggered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 220,000 people.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity. A quake on the main island of Java earlier this month killed 123 people. - Agencies

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