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8.7 Earthquake Hits Off Indonesia Causing Tsunami Warning;
‘Small’ Tsunami Occurs

March 28, 2005

by Kevin Caruso

An 8.7 earthquake hit off of the west coast of Indonesia on March 28, 2005, at 11:09 p.m. local time, triggering numerous tsunami warnings and mass evacuations.

Fear ensued that a large tsunami would again strike the same countries that were affected in the December, 26, 2004 tsunami. Thankfully, no major tsunami occurred; and only a very small -- 10 inch high -- and harmless tsunami was detected in the Indian Ocean at the Cocos Islands.

Nias Island was hit very hard by the earthquake, however, and the death toll has been rising throughout the day. The initial indication was that “dozens” of people were killed. The second wire release indicated that there were 50 deaths. A few hours later, the number was at 290. And as of this writing the estimate is “over 1000.”

Numerous houses were also destroyed on Nias, with the current estimate at “500 to 1000” homes lost.

Additionally, numerous people have been injured.

More than 10,000 citizens of Nias ran to hilltops because they believed a tsunami was going to follow the quake.

Extensive damage also has occurred on Simelue Island in Indonesa.

The quake was first reported as an 8.2 magnitude by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); shortly thereafter, however, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported the magnitude at 8.5. And hours later, the USGS upgraded the magnitude to 8.7.

The massive earthquake occurred at a depth of 18.6 miles, with the epicenter 155 miles south-southeast of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and was felt as far away as Malaysia, about 300 miles from the epicenter.

I have received conflicting reports about the duration of the earthquake, but the quake apparently lasted between 2 and 5 minutes.

Two large aftershocks were also recorded. The first measured 6.0 and struck a half hour after the quake, and the second measured 6.7 and hit two and a half hours after the quake.

The quake triggered evacuations in several countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India.

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