The first reports from Indonesia and places nearby about the aftereffects of today’s large, 8.6-magnitude earthquake are encouraging:
— Reuters reports that the first tsunami generated by the temblor is headed for Indonesia’s Aceh province, but at this point measures just under 7 inches in height. “It doesn’t look like a major tsunami,” Victor Sardina, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, tells Reuters. “But we are still monitoring as tsunamis come in waves.”
— Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters earlier that “thanks God, from what I heard there is neither casualties reported nor major damage in Banda Aceh or other places.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake happened at 4:38 a.m. ET this morning, or 2:38 p.m. Thursday local time, and was centered about 14 miles deep off the west coast of Northern Sumatra — 270 miles southwest of Banda Aceh.
It led the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to issue an “Indian Ocean-wide tsunami watch” covering a vast area that includes coastlines of Indonesia, Australia, India, Thailand, Singapore, South Africa and regions in between.
The quake and tsunami warning immediately brought to mind, of course, the devastating 9.1-magnitude temblor and tsunami that struck the area on Dec. 26, 2004. The massive wave generated by that earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people.
According to the BBC, today’s earthquake was ” felt as far away as Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. ‘There was a tremor felt by all of us working in the building,’ a man called Vincent in Calcutta, India, told the BBC. ‘All just ran out of the building and people were asked not to use the elevator. There was a minute of chaos where all started ringing up to their family and asking about their well-being.’ “
NPR’s Anthony Kuhn, reporting from Jakarta, tells our Newscast Desk that “residents poured out of their houses and headed for high ground” in the areas nearest the quake.
We will keep an eye on the news and update this post.