3 Mar 2016

7.8 earthquake off Indonesia

5:24 am on 3 March 2016
Map of earthquake area

Photo: USGS

A powerful earthquake has struck near the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Indonesian and Australian authorities called off their tsunami alerts within two hours of the 7.8-magnitude tremor though it was still unclear if the quake had destroyed any buildings or caused casualties in Sumatra.

A National Search and Rescue Agency official gave an initial report of some deaths, but later withdrew those comments.

The quake struck at 7.49pm local time and was centred 805km southwest of the coastal city of Padang at a depth of 24km.

"So far there have been no reports (of damage)," Andi Eka Sakya, head of the National Meteorological Agency, told TVOne. "In Bengkulu (in southwest Sumatra) they didn't feel it at all."

On Pagai, an island off the west coast of Sumatra, resident Jois Zaluchu told Reuters by phone that there were no reports of damage or casualties there.

But Kompas TV said patients at hospitals in Padang were being evacuated and a A TVOne reporter said Padang residents were panicking and there were heavy traffic jams.

- Reuters