April 11th, 2012
09:04 AM ET

Magnitude 8.6 quake strikes off the Indonesian island of Sumatra

A massive earthquake struck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Wednesday, triggering a tsunami watch for the Indian Ocean.

The magnitude 8.6 quake struck about 500 kilometers from Indonesia's Aceh province, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It took place at a depth of 33 kilometers.

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The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially issued a tsunami watch for the entire Indian Ocean, but the watch has been cancelled.

Banda Aceh was devastated by a tsunami resulting from an earthquake in December 2004.

[Updated at 9:04 a.m. ET] The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has cancelled its tsunami watch in the Indian Ocean.

"Sea level readings now indicate that the threat had diminished or is over for most areas," the center said.

[Updated at 8:34 a.m. ET] CNN's Kathy Quiano reports that officials have said about 14 aftershocks have rocked Indonesia after the initial 8.6 magnitude earthquake.

Officials are still telling residents to saying stay away from the coastline.

"We are hearing that many residents are choosing to stay away from their homes and have sought shelter on safer and higher ground," Quiano reported, noting that many of the people had taken part in regular drills given that they are prone to quakes and the devastation caused by the 2004 quake.

[Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET] Barry Hirshorn, a geophysicist from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, told CNN that while the earthquake was a 8.6 magnitude and is considered large, it could be much different than the 9.0 magnitude quake that hit in 2004. Because the epicenter of this recent quake is also nearly double the distance offshore, it also means that it could be less likely to create a massive tsunami.

Hirshorn added that was also largely in part to how the rupture of the earth took place in this tsunami. Hirshorn explained that the earthquake in 2004 made more of a vertical motion, which would produce larger waves, while this strike-slip earthquake creates more side-to-side motion.

"Tusnami-wise, we are lucky that way, for now," he said.

Interactive: World's biggest quakes  | How do you measure an earthquake?

[Updated at 8:12 a.m. ET]  A spokesperson for the Indonesian president said the situation in the country is under control but he still anticipates that tsunamis may hit the area.

Teuku Faizasyah said right now it is most important to ensure people that they are safe. Search and rescue teams have been deployed.

"What's important is to bring confidence among the people that the government is with them, that we are ensuring their safety," he told CNN.

Tsunami warnings are in place for another hour, he added, saying they will watch the remote areas of the country especially closely.

"We are really waiting to hear from the isolated areas, but hopefully we wont receive any bad news," Faizasyah  said.

[Updated at 8:01  a.m. ET]  Waves were reported at 1-meter (3.3-feet) amplitude offshore in Meulaboh, Indonesia, but in other cities they were reported at about a foot or less, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

A series of buoys also measured changes in wave height levels, indicating a tsunami could occur. Waves are normally small when they are out in the ocean, but are expected to be much higher when they reach the shore.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that Britain "stands ready to help if required."

[Updated at 7:44 a.m. ET] An evacuation order has been given by Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center for those along the Andaman coast after the earthquake, according to CNN affiliate MCOT.

The warning center's director Somsak Khaosuwann "urged people along the sea in the Andaman coastal provinces of Phuket, Krabi, Phang-nga, Ranong, Trang and Satun to evacuate to higher ground," according to MCOT.

MCOT, also known as Thai TV 9, noted that tremors were felt as far as Bangkok.

In the Maldives, some resorts were evacuated in advance of possible waves, according to CNN's Erin Burnett, who was on vacation in the region.

[Updated at 7:23 a.m. ET] Shimon Dewan, 35,who  lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh, said that he was finishing his lunch with work colleagues when they felt the tremors and the office was shaking. They left the office and went outside into the courtyard in front of the building.

He sent in a video to CNN's iReport and said that it was the longest earthquake or tremor he has ever felt, lasting about 30 seconds.

iReport: Tremors felt in Bangladesh

[Updated at 7:09 a.m. ET] There has been a magnitude 8.2 aftershock off the western coast of Northern Sumatra, according to the USGS. The aftershock was 328 miles south-southwest from Bada Ache, Sumatra in Indonesia and 659 miles from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

iReport: Moving to higher ground in Thailand

[Updated at 6:30 a.m. ET]  Australian seismologist Gary Gibson tells CNN it is less likely that a tsunami will be generated as the earthquake moved horizontally rather than vertically, as happened in 2004.

[Updated at 6:24 a.m. ET]  Indonesia's president says there is no immediate threat of a tsunami from earthquake. He was speaking at a joint press conference in Jakarta with visiting UK Prime Minister David Cameron, ITN's Gary Gibbon tells CNN.

[Updated at 6:18 a.m. ET] According to Andaman Nicobar islands disaster-management commissioner Punya Salila Srivastava there’s NO report of any tsunami generation along the Indian archipelago so far. ]

“There’s no update. Nothing to say more at the moment,” she said.

She told CNN authorities have “downgraded the warning” to an “alert” in Car Nicobar, the northernmost of the Nicobar region.

[Updated at 5:55 a.m ET] The earthquake that struck Wednesday off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra was downgraded to a magnitude 8.6, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

[Updated at 5:35 a.m. ET] The power has gone out in Banda Aceh and residents are moving to higher ground, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency.

The extent of the damage is still being assessed.

In 2004, a 9.1-magnitude underwater earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, triggering a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in 14 countries. Aceh was one of the worse affected areas.

The tsunami, which washed away entire communities, caused nearly $10 billion in damage and more casualties than any other tsunami in history, according to the United Nations.

Since then, officials have worked to improve warning systems and have carried out drills in the region.

Indonesia is on the so-called Ring of Fire, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

- CNN's Kathy Quiano and Harmeet Shah Singh contributed to this report.

soundoff (164 Responses)
  1. samson

    Reblogged this on BULLETFAME.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mark millington

    We are in krabi, Thailand. Evac going on. We are on fifth floor of hotel

    April 11, 2012 at 6:00 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      Krabi must be safe from this tsumani, 2 huge land masses of Indonesia & Thailand-malaysia shielding from the epicenter. But its better to be on safe grounds

      April 11, 2012 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
  3. Freddie Nerk

    Everyone should RUN now! I knew 2012 would be a disaster year and now its true!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Joshua Siew

      yep..... but never expect it's at this location AGAIN!

      April 11, 2012 at 6:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. jack

    on the coast of indonisa i can see the wave coming

    April 11, 2012 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
    • power

      where are you exactly Jack?

      April 11, 2012 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joshua Siew

    Nothing felt over in Singapore

    April 11, 2012 at 6:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Ram

      we felt the tremor in chennai,India at 2.15pm local time.There is tsunami warning across the coastal line of India

      April 11, 2012 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. Chip Whitley

    I'm watching BBC World News to learn about the earthquake because CNN is too concerned with that stupid ZImmerman case. CNN, get your act together and stop turning into a tabloid magazine!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:08 am | Report abuse |
  7. kets

    i am in pattaya now and everyones panicked and we are moving out fast

    April 11, 2012 at 6:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Bert

      Pattaya will be safe as it is at the Gulf of Thailand. No chance of a Tsunami over there. I would only be worried if your near the Andaman Sea.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Trigger

      I too am in Pattaya, and is quiet as far as I can see.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. Joanne

    Any news from Jakarta? Have a co-worker visiting there and cannot reach him.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. Stuart Hoskins

    Hi, a Canadian living in HCMC Vietnam. Felt the the quake here... builting shaking for 10 to 15 sec. My first and not a good feeling.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
  10. Hilmi Ahmad

    We are in Kedah (nothern state of Malaysia). We also feel these quake......

    April 11, 2012 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
    • UMNO

      What you felt was the sound of UMNO robbing the people.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jonathan

    I hope you are safe Jack on the coast of Indonesia. Our family in the USA will be praying for your safety and all those affected (possibly) by the impending Tsunami.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Neale

      How about praying for no earthquakes? Oh, I know why, prayers do not work. Primitives.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:24 am | Report abuse |
  12. Devesh Joshi

    No tremors felt in Jakarta, Java island. Hope Tusami doesnot revisit like in Dec 2004.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Balaji Muthukrishnan

    Tremors felt in Chennai (South India). We were at office and our chairs rolled.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. John

    I am in Jakarta. Didn't feel anything. Strange that the news was earlier on CNN and even Dutch newspapers while there wasn't any news in Indonesia!
    Jakarta won't be affected. Don't worry. It's not in this danger zone.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
    • David Oshana

      John, we have a family member traveling with 3 or 4 other friends from the US in Java. They are in either Yogyakarta or Borobudor. Any updates would be greatly appreciated. My prayers are with you. Thanks, David.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. jack

    rit now i am in my privet helicopter the wave is bilding up MOVE PEOPLE FROM COAST NOW!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Neale


      April 11, 2012 at 6:24 am | Report abuse |
    • D

      Jack and everyone... thoughts are with you - stay/get safe!

      April 11, 2012 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
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