New quake hits Sumatra

PADANG (Indonesia): An earthquake of magnitude 6.8 rattled parts of Indonesia yesterday, sending people in this city on Sumatra island rushing out of their homes and heading toward high ground in fear of a possible tsunami. 

An official said there were reports of houses flattened elsewhere on Sumatra, but as of three hours after the quake hit there were no reports of any casualties. 

Jakarta-based meteorological analyst Wijayanto said “there are no tsunami reports, so residents can return home, but they must still be careful of aftershocks”. 

Indonesia has experienced a series of quakes and aftershocks since a massive temblor on Dec 26 triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed more than 180,000 people. Nearly 50,000 more are still unaccounted for from that disaster. 

The latest quake was felt in Indonesia's neighbour Singapore as well. 

Tremors were also felt in several areas across Singapore yesterday at 6.35pm. The National Environment Agency said the tremors were felt in the eastern and central parts of Singapore. 

Another quake off Sumatra on March 28 is estimated to have killed up to 2,000. Full details on casualties are often slow in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 17,000 islands where communications infrastructure is sometimes minimal and transportation primitive. 

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, no tsunami warning has been issued as a result of yesterday's quake, but it also said there are no tsunami detection devices in the immediate area of the quake. 

In Padang, a city of some 800,000 on Sumatra's west coast, saw many frightened people leave their houses and seek higher ground. 

“There are reports of damage in Pariaman and Lubuk Basung,” Wijayanto said, referring to other communities. 

“Some houses are flattened.” 

He said there were major problems with telephone communication into the affected areas, but electricity had been restored in Padang after an interruption of about an hour. 

The United States Geological Survey said on its website said the quake, which struck was “strong”. – Reuters  

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