The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) has cancelled its tsunami watch for the Indian Ocean, hours after a series of powerful earthquakes and aftershocks struck off the Indonesian coast.
“Level readings now indicate that the threat has diminished or is over for most areas,” its bulletin said.
Earlier, the PTWC said that parts of Sumatra island remain in danger from a tsunami following several powerful earthquakes off the Indonesian coast.
An official said they had only seen small waves of around a metre high. “We don’t expect damage basin-wide, but there is danger nearby the source,” he said. “So the tsunami danger is to the coastlines closest to the earthquake, which would be northern Sumatra.“
A tsunami warning was issued for several countries around the Indian Ocean after an 8.6 magnitude earthquake struck off Aceh province on the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra.
The quake hit 500km southwest of the provincial capital Banda Aceh at a depth of 33km, according the US Geological Survey. It had initially been thought the quake was stronger at 8.9.
Another earthquake measuring 8.2 later hit the area and a 6.5 aftershock was recorded.
Electricity has been knocked out and residents in Banda Aceh have been moving to higher ground. There were also reports of traffic jams as people fled the area.
The tsunami alert was issued by the Hawaii-based PTWC, which is run by the NOAA scientific agency in the United States.
However, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said there was little danger of a tsunami.
At a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is visiting the country, Yudhoyono said Bandah Aceh is under control, damage to buildings has been minimal and there are no reports of casualties. A disaster rescue team has been sent to the area. Cameron said the UK is ready to send any help needed.
Kenya issued a tsunami alert along the whole of its coastline, predicting that it could strike around 17.00 GMT. Schools were closed and people were told to move away from beaches.
Aceh is used to seismic activity. The last tsunami warning for Sumatra was lifted exactly three months ago after a 7.3 magnitude quake there in January.
A 9.1 magnitude quake in the area in December 2004 caused the deadly December 26th tsunami that killed 230,000 people living around the Indian Ocean – 170,000 of them in Aceh.
Wednesday’s 8.7 quake was felt as far away as the Thai capital Bangkok and Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, where office workers abandoned their buildings.
Workers also left their offices in Bangalore in India. Indian authorities closed the port in Chennai in case of a tsunami. People were evacuated to higher ground from parts of India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands, as the islands prepared for tsunami waves.
Thai authorities warned people in six coastal regions to head for higher ground. One of the areas affected is the popular tourist island of Phuket and the international airport was shut as a precaution.
The countries warned of a possible tsunami at the outset were Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Maldives, Malaysia, Pakistan, Somalia, Oman, Iran, Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa and Singapore.