Quake sparked tsunami fears
Two massive earthquakes in the Indian Ocean triggered tsunami warnings across the globe yesterday, including in the UAE.
The quakes struck off the coast of Indonesia and sent panicked residents fleeing to high ground, fearing a repeat of the 2004 Boxing Day disaster that claimed 230,000 lives.
Women and children cried in Aceh, where memories are still raw of that tsunami, in which 170,000 people died in the province. Others screamed “God is great” as they poured from their homes or searched for family.
Patients were wheeled out of hospitals, some still lying in their beds with drips attached to their arms. And one hotel guest was injured when he jumped out of a window.
However, despite the initial panic, there were no deadly waves or serious damage, and the tsunami watch was lifted later in the day for much of the Indian Ocean.
The US Geological Survey said the first 8.6-magnitude quake hit at a shallow depth of 22km in the sea 435km from Aceh’s provincial capital. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii put countries on alert from Australia to India and the UAE, where the centre said there was a risk of the tsunami hitting Fujairah.
The only wave to hit, though, was less than 80cm high, rolling to Indonesia’s emptied coastline. Experts said the quakes did not cause huge tsunamis because the friction and shaking occurred horizontally, not vertically. The earth’s tectonic plates slid against each other, creating more of a vibration in the water.
In contrast, mega-thrust quakes cause the seabed to rise or drop vertically, displacing massive amounts of water and sending towering waves racing across the ocean at jetliner speeds.
The UAE Foreign Ministry did, though, warn people not to travel to South East Asia except “in situations of ultimate necessity”. And the World Meteorological Organisation said the response to the warnings showed communication systems set up after the 2004 tsunami appeared to have worked well.