A powerful and shallow 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck off the west coast of the island of Sumatra. The quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometers on Wednesday, triggering a tsunami alert for parts of Sumatra, including West Sumatra, North Sumatra and Aceh, but initial fears of another region-wide disaster faded as tsunami warnings were canceled.
Indonesian and Australian authorities called off their tsunami alerts within two hours of the 7.8 magnitude tremor, though it was still unclear if the quake had destroyed any buildings or killed people in Sumatra.
A National Search and Rescue Agency official gave an initial report of some deaths, but later withdrew those comments.
“Up until now, there is no information about deaths,” said Heronimus Guru, the agency’s deputy head of operations.
Any rescue operation will be hampered by the dark, which falls early in the tropical archipelago.
There were no immediate reports of damage, but the shallower a quake, the more dangerous it is. The U.S. Geological Survey originally put the magnitude at 8.2, revising it down to 7.8.
The epicenter was 808 km (502 miles) southwest of the coastal city of Padang. It was 24 km (15 miles) deep, it said, after first putting its depth at 10 km.
“So far there have been no reports (of damage),” Andi Eka Sakya, head of the National Meteorological Agency, told TVOne. “In Bengkulu (in southwest Sumatra) they didn’t feel it at all.”
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said a tsunami was unlikely.
“Local governments of the city of Padang and some other areas in west Sumatra have said there was no tsunami and the warning can now be revoked,” spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
President Joko Widodo was staying overnight at a hotel in Medan in North Sumatra and was safe, palace officials said. A Medan resident said he did not feel the quake.
Erwin, a resident of Mentawai, a chain of islands off Sumatra, told Metro TV: “I am at the beach currently looking to see any tsunami sign with my flashlight. There’s nothing. A few minutes have passed but nothing, but many people have already evacuated to higher places.”
On Pagai, an island off the west coast of Sumatra, resident Jois Zaluchu said by phone that there were no reports of damage or casualties there.
But Kompas TV said patients at hospitals in Padang were being evacuated. A TVOne reporter said Padang residents were panicking and there were heavy traffic jams.