Powerful quake strikes Indonesia – felt in Jakarta and Singapore

Although we’re fine here in Jakarta, this brings back memories from the Asian Tsunami. I live only two miles from the ocean, and barely above sea level.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) — A strong earthquake measuring 7.9 in magnitude has struck near southern Indonesia, sending employees fleeing into the street and triggering a small tsunami.

Companies have ordered immediate emergency evacuations.

Brian Shiro of the National Oceanic and Atmopheric Administration’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the tsunami measured about two feet high, much smaller than the devastating one that struck in 2004, killing more than 200,000.

It was recoreded in Padang, on Sumatra, several hundred miles northeast of the epicenter, Shiro said.

A tsunami watch has been issued for all Indian Ocean areas including Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen and Kenya.

The earthquake struck at 1810 local time (1110 GMT) in Bengkulu province.

Several skyscrapers in Jakarta were rocked by the quake, which came at the end of the work day, said Andy Saputra, CNN producer in Jakarta.

“It’s pretty strong and people are being evacuated from the tall buildings,” he said.

Jakarta is 605 km (375 miles) southeast of the epicenter. The epicenter is believed to be Bengkulu Province in southern Sumatra.

Although some employees were too afraid to leave their offices, companies ordered immediate emergency evacuations, Saputra said.

Workers exited structures via fire stairs and went into the street, away from buildings and other potential dangers, he added.

The Financial Times’ John Aglionby, speaking from Jakarta, told CNN: “I was up on the 16th floor of a skyscraper… I heard the blinds flapping and the windows first and the chairs were shaking and everything, and realised that we had to get out.”

A resident of Bengkulu province told CNN: “Everyone is running out their houses in every direction.”

High-rise buildings also were evacuated in Singapore, CNN Producer Martin Bohley said.

He said he felt shaking for almost a minute.

“At first I wasn’t quite sure, then I reconfirmed with staff at the hotel, then I turned on local media here, and local media had reported that several high-rise locations had felt it so strong that they had evacuated.”

Ken Navidad at the U.S. Geological Survey said in Denver said the tsunami centers in the Pacific and Alaska initially said two quakes, but he did not know why. He said his agency has measured only one.

Wednesday’s earthquake is 10 times smaller than the one that caused the giant tsunami off the northern tip of Indonesia in 2004, John Applegate of the USGS in Washington said.

But he added: “The earthquake itself is a warning that there could be a tsunami, and people have to get off the beaches.”

Applegate said it was a shallow earthquake, about 19 miles deep, which is more of a threat to the local population.

“(With a) deep earthquake, the waves have to travel through a lot of the earth before they reach population; shallow earthquake means the local population is right there,” he explained.

“It also means that its more likely to rupture the surface, and with this being a subsea earthquake, that means there is the tsunami potential.”

Tsunami warning centers in Hawaii and Alaska said no tsunamis were expected in their areas.

Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific Basin’s “Ring of Fire” – an arc of volcanos and fault lines, is prone to seismic upheaval.

In December 2004, a massive earthquake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people, including 160,000 people in Indonesia’s province of Aceh.