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India lifts tsunami alert after Indonesia quake

India today said there was no likelihood of tsunami tidal waves being formed anywhere in the Indian Ocean region after an earthquake of 8.9 magnitude hit waters off western coast of northern Sumatra in Indonesia.

Intially, the Earth Sciences Ministry and the National Disaster Management Authority issued a tsuanmi warning for Andaman and Nicobar Island and an alert to coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Earthquake Kolkata
Panic-stricken employees evacuated from their building in Kolkata on Wednesday.

Later, in subsequent bulletins, the two organisations virtually ruled out tsunami in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and elsewhere in the country.

"There is no specific threat. It was a watch and alert. There is no likelihood of any tsunami in the Indian Ocean region," NDMA Vice President Sashidhar Reddy told PTI. He said the earthquake that struck the Sumatra islands was not the kind of tremors that usually triggers tsunami tidal waves.

"It is the kind of strike and slip earth quake which does not trigger tsunami. There was no vertical displacement of water under the sea," he said.

"Tsunami possibility is virtually ruled out," he said, adding that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration and the Army stationed there had informed the NDMA that so far no waves have been noticed in the island.

The initial projections issued by the Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC) showed the tidal waves triggered by the quake hitting parts of Nicobar, Komatra and Katchal minutes after it struck the region at 14:08 IST.

A massive earthquake of 8.7 magnitude hit waters off Indonesia triggering tsunami fears across the Indian Ocean nations, including India, reviving memories of the 2004 devastation that had claimed tens of thousands of lives in the region.

The quake struck off Indonesia's Sumatra island, US and Indonesian monitors reported, prompting an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami alert.

The tremors were felt far and wide in southern and eastern parts of India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

The quake's magnitude was 8.7 on Richter scale and it struck 431-kilometres off the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh.

Indonesia earthquake
Indonesian employees evacuate their office building in Sumatra island following the powerful earthquake. Pic/AFP 

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami watch was in effect for Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Maldives and other Indian Ocean islands, Malaysia, Pakistan, Somalia, Oman, Iran, Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa and Singapore. 

A tsunami watch means there is the potential for a tsunami, not that one is imminent.

The US Geological Survey said the powerful quake was centered 33 kilometers beneath the ocean floor.

A constant vigil is being maintained amid reports of aftershocks in some parts of the country which put authorities on their toes. Coastal districts were especially put on high alert.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan today said there was no tsunami threat in Mumbai after an earthquake of 8.9 magnitude had hit the western coast of northern Sumatra in Indonesia today. Talking to reporters, Chavan said an alert has been received from Hyderabad-based centre for National tsunami warning as a precaution. "The alert will continue till further instructions are received. But there is no threat in Mumbai," he added.

Operations at Chennai Port were suspended, Metro operations in Kolkata were briefly curtailed and fishermen in coastal states were asked to return to land, as people in the Little Andamans, southern group of islands including the Great Nicobar and Campbell Bay were evacuated. The southern islands were the closest to the epicentre of the quake.

Six teams of National Disaster Response Force were also kept in readiness at Chennai and an equal number moved to Hindon airport in the national capital.

Operations at Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) in Kalpakkam near Chennai continued to function normally though there was a move to halt operations following the Tsunami warning. The nuclear plant is however on high alert.

People rushed out of houses and high rise office buildings in panic in cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar and Guwahati where tremors were felt.

According to reports, some buildings in Kolkata developed minor cracks. Panic-stricken people in Andhra Pradesh's coastal districts of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam rushed out of their homes as soon as they felt the tremor.

Meanwhile, an 8.2-magnitude aftershock struck off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island today, following the first quake that triggered an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami alert.

The US Geological Survey said the aftershock struck at 1513 IST, 615 km from Banda Aceh. 

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