updated 11/19/2005 4:53:06 PM ET 2005-11-19T21:53:06
BREAKING NEWS

An earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.2 struck off the coast of Sumatra on Saturday, triggering a tsunami alert and prompting some residents to flee their homes, officials said.

There were no immediate reports of a tsunami, damages or casualties.

The quake’s epicenter was located off Simeulue island, about 160 miles southwest of Medan, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It struck just after 9 p.m. local time.

Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency put the quake’s magnitude at 6.2, but the USGS said the magnitude was 6.5. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

The quake strongly jolted nearby Nias island and was felt in Medan, said Subagio, an official at the Indonesian agency’s Jakarta office who goes by a single name.

Agus Mendrofa, deputy mayor of Nias, told El Shinta radio station that some people momentarily fled their houses when the temblor struck.

‘Pretty strong’
“It was pretty strong because it was the first time in the past months that people ran out of houses because of a quake,” Mendrofa said.

He said he had received no reports of damage on the island.

Rusdi, a Simeulue resident, told The Associated Press by telephone that the quake did not cause any widespread panic in the main island town of Sinabang.

Simeulue is near the epicenter of the 9.0-magnitude quake on Dec. 26 that caused a tsunami that killing or left missing more than 220,000 people in 11 Indian Ocean countries. Sumatra was the hardest hit, losing some 128,000 people.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said there was no threat of a tsunami to Pacific coastlines, but quakes of similar size can sometimes generate local tsunamis along coasts within a few hundred miles of the epicenter.

Tsunami warning system
A team of German and Indonesian scientists are installing a tsunami warning system along the coast of Sumatra, expected to be operational by year’s end. The system of sensors on the ocean floor and giant buoys on its surface will be able to notify coastal observation stations within 10 minutes of a tsunami-strength earthquake.

Sumatra has been wracked by scores of powerful aftershocks since last year’s tsunami. In March, an 8.7-magnitude earthquake struck Nias and Simeulue, causing widespread damage and killing about 900 people.

Experts say the fault line that triggered that temblor is unstable and may produce another major quake soon.

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