A tsunami alert has been lifted around much of the Indian Ocean after an 8.6-magnitude earthquake struck off the western coast of Aceh, northern Sumatra, triggering panic as people fled for high ground.
The quake’s centre was 20 miles beneath the ocean floor and about 308 miles from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). It was initially reported as being of 8.9 magnitude but was downgraded shortly after it hit. A 6.5-magnitude aftershock has since been reported.
Traffic jams were reported in Aceh, where people scrambled for higher ground as sirens mingled with sounds from the mosques, Reuters reported. A rescue team from Indonesia‘s disaster mitigation agency was sent to the region to help.
Officials in the neighbouring countries of Thailand, Malaysia and India issued precautionary evacuation orders along coastal regions. Thailand temporarily closed Phuket airport, according to local media, with warnings of waves up to 4 metres (13ft) in height hitting the holiday islands of Phuket and Krabi, although no tsunami waves have yet been reported.
Tremors, some lasting for as long as five minutes, were felt across south-east Asia after the earthquake hit. Reports on Twitter described employees rushing out of office buildings and families looking for safety as far away as Rangoon, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, India and Sri Lanka.
CONTINUED at The Guardian.