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Fear shakes regions still reeling from killer tsunami
Cindy Drukier & Jan Jekielek, The Epoch Times
BANGKOK - Millions still traumatized by last December 26th’s killer tsunami were thrown into panic mode once again when another great earthquake hit Indonesia on Monday night. At 11:09 pm local time, the magnitude 8.7 quake struck roughly 30 km below the seabed off the west coast of Sumatra. This is a mere 177 km southwest of the quake that triggered the tsunami that killed more than 300,000 people and left up to two million homeless.
According to early reports, Nias Island, a popular surfing destination off of Sumatra’s west coast, bore the brunt of the damage- the island was also affected by the tsunami. Buildings have reportedly been flattened with people trapped inside. The damage is still being assessed, but thousands are feared dead, according to Vice President Jusuf Kalla. "It is predicted- and it's still a rough estimate- that the number of the victims of dead may be between 1,000 and 2,000," Mr. Kalla told el-Shinta radio.
There are reports as well that Aceh Singkil, on the southwestern coast of Aceh province, suffered extensive structural damage. As well, a three-meter-high tsunami struck Simeuleu Island near Aceh almost immediately after the earthquake, reported the Kyoto and Agence France-Presse news agencies. It is still unknown how the isolated Banyak islands, situated close to the epicenter, fared. Local and international agencies are providing relief and assessing the extent of the damage.
Soon after the earthquake, governments of countries affected by December’s tsunami, including Sri Lanka, Thailand and India, issued warnings for coastal areas along the Indian Ocean. Although authorities were swift to react this time, without a system of pressure sensors and tide gauges that can detect tsunami formation in place, no one could predict what would happen. Citizens remained on high alert, fearing the worst.
In Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, people streamed from their tents and homes into the streets, creating a state of general panic. In at least one town in eastern Sri Lanka, warning sirens blared an evacuation order. "It was like reliving the same horror of three months ago," said Fatheena Faleel, a mother of three, according to the Associated Press. Sri Lankan authorities also stated that two people in a Tamil rebel-held area of the country died amidst the ensuing chaos.
In Thailand, warnings came across state TV and radio but no major panic followed. “We alerted the ground floor guests, [that] if anything happened they should move to the second floor. After three hours nothing happened, and we all went to sleep,” said Kjitjate Sapmanee, general manager of a hotel on Patong Beach in Phuket province.
All the national alerts were called off several hours later, once the critical time period had passed without incident.
Even as this round of recovery begins, concern grows about the increase in seismic activity in the area. According to US Geological Survey spokesman Don Blakeman, Monday’s quake was an aftershock from last December's quake. In an article in the March 17th edition of the journal Nature, John McCloskey and a team of seismologists at the University of Ulster predicted that the area will experience more large quakes in the future, due to the increased the stress exerted on the earth’s crust after the initial one in December.
"People believe lightning never strikes twice in the same place," McCloskey said to reporters. "Earthquakes do. Earthquakes cluster in space and time. When you get an earthquake, you are more likely to get another, and our calculations show the stress interaction [in South Asia] is very high."
That’s not a thought that will help calm the fears.
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