Indonesia: Massive Earthquake Strikes Off Sumatra Coast, Sparks Tsunami Fears

An Indonesian earthquake, which struck off the coast of Sumatra, was confirmed to be magnitude 7.8 by the United States Geological Survey. Although warnings were issued, officials later declared there is no danger of a tsunami.

According to the USGS, the epicenter of the Indonesian earthquake was approximately 500 miles off the west coast of Sumatra, and the depth of the quake was determined to be just under 15 miles.

Guardian reports tsunami alerts were immediately issued throughout the region, including portions of Australia’s west coast. However, they were all canceled within two hours.

Although there were no immediate reports of damage, the earthquake struck just before 7:00 p.m. local time and authorities are being forced to work in the dark.

Shallow earthquakes are generally stronger and cause more widespread damage. However, the USGS classified the Indonesian earthquake’s impact as “green,” as “there is a low likelihood of casualties” and structural damage.

Wednesday’s earthquake was, indeed, powerful. However, unlike the December, 2004, earthquake, it did not occur along a major fault line or subduction zone.

The December 26, 2004, Indonesia earthquake struck approximately 100 miles off the coast of Sumatra. The powerful magnitude-9.1 earthquake was specifically destructive, as it was centered along the Burma and Indian plates.

International Business Times reports the Burma plate essentially slipped below the Indian plate and subsequently displaced more than 700 miles of land. The impact released “energy… equivalent to 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs.”

Although the Indonesia earthquake was massive, the resulting tsunami caused far more damage than the initial tremors. Officials estimate more than 500,000 people were injured and more than 230,000 were killed. Unfortunately, the specific number of fatalities may never ben known, as thousands of people were never found.

Wednesday’s Indonesia earthquake sparked fears of a similarly destructive tsunami. The quake was initially reported as magnitude 8.3, but was later downgraded to magnitude 7.8 by the USGS. Although warnings and watches were issued throughout the region, and many people relocated to higher ground, the threat passed and the alerts were dismissed.

The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology’s Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre confirmed the alerts were lifted. However, they urged residents of the Christmas and Cocos Islands to be cautious along the coast.

“Evacuations from communities are not required, but people are advised to get out of the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge of beaches, harbours, marinas, coastal estuaries and rock platforms.”

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, several news agencies misquoted Heronimus Guru, who oversees the National Search and Rescue Agency. However, he later confirmed there are no known casualties resulting from Wednesday’s earthquake.

Local officials report residents’ response to the quake caused more issues than the quake itself. With the 2004 earthquake weighing heavily on their minds, many people panicked in an attempt to flee their homes and find higher ground. Although no injuries were reported, officials confirmed there were “heavy traffic jams” throughout the region.

Mirror reports video footage has surfaced on social media, which was reportedly filmed during Wednesday’s earthquake. The footage is concerning, as numerous people are seen running in an attempt to escape a crumbling building.

Although the video was genuine, it was clearly mislabeled. The Mirror confirmed it was filmed in 2013 during an earthquake in China. At this time, officials have not reported any significant damage or injuries as a result of the Indonesia earthquake.

Authorities are still assessing the situation. However, they may not know the full extent of the damage caused by the Indonesia earthquake until daybreak.

[Image via Alexlky/Shutterstock]