Another quake hits Nias island, residents flee

Monday, April 18, 2005
By nias

Monday, April 18, 2005 The Jakarta Post, Medan/Padang/Yogyakarta

A major earthquake shook Nias island late on Saturday, causing panic among residents, an official said on Sunday. No fatalities were reported, but the undersea quake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale added to the trauma of residents following the massive quake on March 28 that killed hundreds of people.

An official at the Meteorological and Geophysics Agency in Medan, Albertus Simanullang, said the epicenter of Saturday's quake, which lasted for 10 seconds, was about 44 kilometers northeast of Gunung Sitoli, the capital of Nias regency.

The 32-kilometer deep quake hit about midnight, leading to a half-hour power blackout in area. Residents of Gunung Sitoli, including those living in shelters, rushed to higher ground for fear of a tsunami.

Simanullang said the earthquake on Saturday was the largest since the March 28 quake that measured 8.7 on the Richter scale. The tremblor on Saturday could be felt in cities in Sumatra such as Padang, Padang Sidempuan, Sibolga, Sidikalang and Medan. The quake caused cracks in some buildings but no building collapses were reported.

Separately, a earthquake expert from the Sepuluh November Institute of Science, Rachmat Purwono, said studies showed the only area on Java island at risk of a tsunami was West Java province.

According to Rachmat, the only areas in Indonesia at risk of earthquake-triggered tsunamis, outside of Aceh, are Bengkulu, Lampung, Bandarlampung, West Java, Banten, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, North Maluku, Palu and Gorontalo.

"The areas that are safe from the threat of tsunamis include Jakarta, Central Java, East Java, Bali, South Sulawesi and Kalimantan," Rachmat said as quoted by Antara news agency.

While Rachmat did not include Yogyakarta in those areas at risk of tsunamis, authorities in the area are working to set up an early warning system for large wave caused by earthquakes.

An official said on Saturday the Yogyakarta provincial administration would set up large sirens on Depok Beach in Bantul, and on Trisik and Glagah beaches in Kulonprogo regency. The sirens will be sounded if there is earthquake in the area, said Raymond Sofyan, the head of Yogyakarta's Disaster Prevention Center.

The plan was devised after a message from the Minister of Home Affairs called on governors across the country to set up early warning systems for tsunamis and earthquakes.

Separately, volcanologists lowered the status of Mount Talang in Solok district, West Sumatra, to watch from alert status on Sunday, as activity at the mountain decreased. Mount Talang erupted last Tuesday, forcing thousands of nearby residents to flee their homes.

As activity at the volcano has decreased, the Solok administration has told residents they can return to their homes, the coordinator of the Solok Disaster Prevention Center, Elfi Syahlan, said.

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April 2005