Tsunami Watch Issued After Major Indonesia Quake

Apr 11, 2012
Originally published on April 11, 2012 4:40 am
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After an earthquake under the ocean floor, measuring 8.6, a tsunami watch remains in effect for the Indian Ocean area. But we can tell you that the tsunami warning center has reduced the area for which that is in effect. Now the epicenter of this earthquake was about 270 miles southwest of Banda Aceh, in Indonesia. That's very close to the site of a devastating earthquake in 2004. You will recall that that earthquake killed, or displaced, many millions of people – hundreds of thousands killed. Since this morning's quake, countries have been on high alert. And let's go, now, to NPR's Anthony Kuhn, he's in Jakarta. Hi, Anthony.


INSKEEP: Now, having said that that 2004 disaster was so monstrous, we have not had too many reports of ill effects this time. What have you heard so far?

KUHN: Well, what we're seeing here, of course, was when the quake hit, there was panic because the shaking was so intense and it lasted for around four minutes or so. And people who remember the 2004 quake and tsunami were terrified. A lot of people came running out of their homes, jumping on cars and motorbikes and heading for higher ground. In the vicinity, shaking was quite strong also in Malaysia and in Thailand, and as far up as India. Indonesia's president said the threat of tsunami was not great. The wave that hit the shore in India was about 30 inches high. But three hours later, there was an aftershock almost as powerful as the original quake, and that is why the tsunami warnings in the region are still in effect.

INSKEEP: Boy, when you say the shaking was felt for four minutes, that must have felt like an eternity to people who were feeling it.

KUHN: Yes, and the amazing thing is that, first of all, we've not heard reports of casualties or significant damage. Second of all, the comparison between the 2004 quake and the current one, I mean, the damage from this one is so much less. Why? Well, experts seem to be saying that the ground moved horizontally, instead of vertically, as it did in the last quake. And therefore, less water was displaced and no huge tsunami was created. However, there are areas, such as the Andaman Islands of India where a lot of people have to relocate to higher ground, and there could still be tsunamis rolling in.

INSKEEP: Now, some of the effected areas, of course, were the very same areas, as we mentioned, that were devastated in 2004. How well have people adapted to that disaster and how prepared did people seem to be for whatever might happen today?

KUHN: Well, Indonesian authorities sent emergency response teams to Aceh Province, that's the northwestern most part of the island of Sumatra. In fact, areas of Aceh are still rebuilding from the 2004 quake. And it took, you know, millions of dollars international aid flowing into the country to help rebuild. And, of the roughly 230,000 people who were killed in that tsunami in 2004, three quarters were in Aceh. So, any country, I think, would be hard put to deal with such an overwhelming disaster.

INSKEEP: And this is something that people must think about all the time, even now.

KUHN: Yes. It's, you know, for people who went through it, it was truly terrifying and people were in the streets and crying and pouring out of their homes, remembering what had happened in 2004.

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Anthony Kuhn, he is in Jakarta and monitoring the effects of an earthquake underneath the ocean floor off the coast of Indonesia. It measured 8.6. A tsunami watch remains in effect for several countries. A couple of countries have issued tsunami warnings. You're listening to him on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.