Strong earthquake shakes western Indonesia, causes panic

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Authorities say the magnitude 6.5 quake did not trigger a tsunami warning and urge residents not to panic.

A strong earthquake has struck off the coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra island, causing residents to panic, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or serious damage.

Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency (BMKG) recorded the magnitude 6.5 earthquake off the Mentawai islands just before 10:30am (03:30 GMT) on Monday and said it did not trigger a tsunami warning.

It was the third earthquake felt in the area on Monday.

A magnitude 5.2 earthquake was recorded before dawn, followed by a magnitude 5.4 quake less than an hour later.

The magnitude 6.5 earthquake was felt for several seconds in the provincial capital of Padang and in the surrounding mountainous area of Bukitinggi, the disaster agency said in a statement.

The agency said there were no reports of casualties but there was minor damage to buildings on Siberut island.

Separately, Novriadi, a local disaster official on the Mentawai islands, told the Reuters news agency that residents in several villages had been evacuated to higher ground and a local church, school and health facility had been slightly damaged.

The disaster agency urged people not to panic and warned of the potential for aftershocks.

The United States Geological Survey measured the earthquake at 5.9 and said it was centred about 170km (105.6 miles) west-southwest of Pariaman, a coastal city in West Sumatra province at a depth of 18km (11 miles).

Variations in early measurements are common.

Indonesia straddles the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”, where different tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust meet and create frequent seismic activity.

In February, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed at least 25 people and injured more than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 6,500 in West Sulawesi province.

In 2009, Padang was struck by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 1,100 people, injured many more and caused widespread destruction.

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