A magnitude-7.8 natural disaster hit parts of Sumatra and small islands in western Indonesia on Wednesday evening, sending thousands of islanders rushing to high ground but causing no major damage or deaths.
Indonesia was compelled to rely on tsunami warnings from other nations’ buoys in the Indian Ocean this week after a huge quake off the west coast of Sumatra because its detection system was disabled, a senior disaster agency official said.
However, the national disaster agency said the process of confirming that a tsunami had not occurred was hindered because none of the country’s 22 early-warning buoys were working.
Mentawai, the regency closest to the epicenter and left devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean quake, was reported to have no damage.
Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said no damage or casualties were reported so far, but panicked people in several cities and villages on Sumatra island and in the Mentawai island chain fled to higher elevations.
Indonesia straddles the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”, a highly seismically active zone, where different plates on the earth’s crust meet and create a large number of earthquakes and volcanoes.
“Most of (the buoys) were broken by vandalism”. An official said the potential for a tsunami was small.
Although there were some strong aftershocks yesterday, life in Padang had largely resumed to normal by daybreak.
There were 11 aftershocks during the night following the main quake, but authorities called for calm as they had diminished in strength.
He said the cost for new buoys would be US$300,000-$600,000 each, depending on whether the Indonesian government bought units from the United States or built its own.
Residents take shelter on higher ground. Patients at hospitals in Padang were evacuated and there were traffic jams as panicking residents tried to leave.
The epicenter of the quake was located 808 kilometers southwest of Padang and was 10 km deep, the USGS said.
“We were still trying to check our tidal gauges to convince ourselves before cancelling the announcement” about a possible tsunami, said Andi Eka Sakya, director general of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.