Powerful earthquake hits Sumatra

A POWERFUL earthquake of measuring up to 8.5 on the Richter scale hit Indonesia’s tsunami-devasted Sumatra island late yesterday, causing major panic and power blackouts, officials and reports said.

The quake hit a location between the island’s main cities of Padang and Medan at around 11.15 pm (12.15am Singapore time) and lasted up to three minutes, said Ramlan of Indonesia’s Meteorological and Geophysics Office.

The quake struck 205km northwest off Sibolga, Sumatra, close to where a 9.0 quake in December triggered a devastating tsunami, a spokesman for the US Geological Survey was quoted as saying.

The ‘great earthquake’ could cause tsunamis, he said.

Singaporeans in many parts of the island felt the earth move from about 12.15 this morning for about five minutes.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force received calls about the tremors from people in Marine Parade, Zion Road, Whampoa, Bedok Reservoir, Hougang, Punggol, Braddell Road and Farrer Road.

The Straits Times hotline also received calls from Singaporeans who felt the tremors in Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Jalan Besar, Geylang, Telok Blangah and Toa Payoh.

In Malaysia, many residents of high-rise apartments and condominiums ran downstairs when the tremors were felt. A number of hotels in Kuala Lumpur were evacuated, while others ran down on their own.

The tremors were felt as far north as Penang and Kedah, and lasted for between 30 seconds and 5 minutes, private TV channel nTV7 reported on its late news update.

Reuters news agency, quoting Radio Thailand, said a tsunami warning had been issued in Thailand shortly after the quake.

The undersea earthquake on Dec 26, the world’s biggest in 40 years, and the huge tsunami that followed killed more than 174,000 people and left another 106,000 missing.

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