7.5 Earthquake Strikes Off Indonesia, Threat of Volcano Eruption

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.5 struck off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The agency increased the magnitude to a 7.7 as the day progressed. A local tsunami watch was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre after the quake struck at 9:42 p.m. A destructive, widespread tsunami is not expected. A local tsunami may have been generated that could affect coasts located within 100 km (62 miles) from the epicentre, according to the Warning Centre. The quake’s epicentre was located 240 km (149 miles) south of Padang at a depth of 33 km (20.5 miles), according to USGS. The quake could be felt in towns in Bengkulu and west Sumatra provinces.

“There was shaking that went on for about three seconds or so,” Indonesian disaster management agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono told AFP News Agency. “Residents panicked and ran to the hills but now they are starting to come down. There is no report of casualties or damages.” (BBC) Aftershocks hit the area, with one registered at magnitude 5.0 about an hour after the first tremor.

“Everyone was running out of their houses,” said Sofyan Alawi, a resident of the city of Padang. She said loudspeakers in mosques had broadcast tsunami warnings and roads to nearby hills were soon swarming with cars and motorcycles.” (CBC)

“We kept looking back to see if a wave was coming,” said Ade Syahputra. (CBC)

Indonesian officials have also gone on high alert and have started evacuations as they warily monitor Mount Merapi, a volatile volcano in central Java that might erupt at any time. “The local government is coordinating to evacuate around 40,000 villagers to the pre-assigned shelters,” Neulis Aulisari of the national disaster coordination board said Monday. (CNN) Seismic activity has intensified, signaling that an eruption is imminent, according to Indonesian volcanologists. The 3,000-meter Merapi is famously unpredictable, though. A pyroclastic flow – a fast-moving burst of blistering glass and rock fragments – is a key concern. One killed two people in 2006 and another killed more than 60 villagers in 1994. About 1,300 people died when Merapi erupted in 1930.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” one of the world’s most active areas for earthquakes and volcanoes.

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