Huge 8.6 Earthquake Hits Off the Coast of Indonesia

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The U.S. Geological Survey says an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.6 struck about 250 miles off the western coast of Indonesia, setting off tsunami warnings all across the Indian Ocean. At the present time there have been no solid reports of major damage from the quake or from waves, but residents of the area are on alert — and on edge — as aftershocks continue and they wait for more news. The initial quake struck about 2:30 in the afternoon local time (on Thursday) and was felt as far away as Singapore, Vietnam and India. According to the USGS estimates, it was centered at a depth of about 14 miles.

Though the epicenter is quite close to the one from the 2004 earthquake that killed over 230,000 people in Southeast Asia, today's quake was much less powerful and further away from the island of Sumatra. Indonesia's president has reportedly already announced that there is no tsunami threat, but the country remains on alert. Several airports and shipping ports in the region have temporarily closed.

Update (6:11 a.m.): A spokesman for the USGS tells the BBC that this earthquake moved horizontally, rather that vertically, making a tsunami much less likely. Also, an aftershock registering 6.5 on the Richter scale has been felt in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

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Update (7:00 a.m.): Another huge aftershock has registered off the coast of Sumatara, centered just miles from the first quake. This one is currently listed at 8.2 on the Richter scale, triggering another tsunami warning. There have been six earthquakes that immediate area today registering a magnitude of 5.1 or higher.

Update (8:45 a.m.): The number of aftershocks has risen to 10, most under 6.0, though there are still no indications of major tsunami activity.

Update (8:51 a.m.): The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has now canceled the tsunami watch for all countries on the Indian Ocean.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.