Coasts evacuated on tsunami alert | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 13, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 13, 2007

Coasts evacuated on tsunami alert

10 die in Indonesia

Thousands of people ran for safety evacuating beaches and areas near seashore after the authorities yesterday evening issued a tsunami warning, for the first time in the country, following a massive earthquake that hit Indonesian island of Sumatra, killing 10 people.
District administration and Red Crescent activists spread along the Cox's Bazar beach at 7:30pm and asked tourists to leave the beach immediately. Using megaphones they announced that a tsunami might hit the coastal belt at around midnight.
The water level at Cox's Bazar shore unusually rose by about 2.5 feet at 8:20pm, sparking panic among tourists and residents of the resort town.
The national football team training on the beach returned to the hotel after the warning. Later, they were shifted to Cox's Bazar Circuit House.
Patuakhali district administration imposed a red alert at Kuakata sea beach, and coastal Kalapara and Galachipa upazilas for an indefinite period following the tsunami warning. Officials have started shifting all inhabitants to safer places.
District administration officials using loudspeakers started making announcements to make people aware about the situation.
DC Office sources said they received an emergency message at about 7:30pm from the Ministry of Relief and Disaster Management about the possible tsunami and directive to take necessary actions.
Kalapara upazila administration sources said they evacuated all tourists from Kuakata beach. Tourists at the got panicked after a tremor jolted the area for a few seconds at 6:15 pm. They ran for shelter as the seawater rose unusually after the jolt.
Fishing boats and trawlers sailed to the sea yesterday morning when it became calm after three days of rough weather. Many of them were seen still engaged in fishing as Red Crescent or the administration officials could not reach the warning message to them.
A Met Office warning says: “The earthquake may generate tsunami wave in the Bay of Bengal of the North Indian Ocean that may reach Bangladesh coast after midnight.”
In Chittagong, the authorities and voluntary organisations took up precautionary measures and started evacuating people from the coastal areas.
All the upazila nirbahi officers (UNO) of the coastal upazilas were instructed to start evacuation and take necessary measures.
"We are working in coordination with Red Crescent and Cyclone Preparedness Programme," said Deputy Commissioner Ashraf Shamim. "Besides, we are taking help from the ward commissioners, UP chairmen and members.”
Announcements are being made from mosques to alert people.
Ward Commissioner of Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) Saleh Ahmed Chowdhury said they started evacuating people from their residences in South Patenga and taking them to the 12 cyclone shelters in the ward.
Officials at Sandwip upazila said they were making announcement in all 14 unions asking the people to take shelter at the nearby cyclone shelter. “We opened the four-storey upazila complex building for the people to take shelter,” an official said.
Soon after 5.00pm the coastal belt experienced a tremor that caused a strong vibration and water surge in the sea, the officials said.
Chittagong Port Authority asked all the vessels to take shelter in the outer anchorage with the engines kept running. The vessels at jetties and channel have been advised to remain tied together in a groups, said CPA sources.
In Indonesia, a massive earthquake killed at least 10 people, injured 100 and triggered a small tsunami in western Indonesia and warnings for destructive waves were issued across much of the Indian Ocean region.
The 8.2-magnitude quake off Sumatra island badly damaged buildings along the coast and could be felt in at least four countries, with tall buildings swaying as far as 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away.
The earthquake was followed by a series of powerful aftershocks, the strongest of which registered magnitude 6.6 and triggered a second tsunami alert in Indonesia, the local meteorological agency reported.
The quake hit at 9:40 pm (1440 GMT), about 70 kilometres southwest of the town of Bengkulu, at a depth of 18 kilometres, the agency said by short text message.
In the capital Jakarta 600 kilometres further south, high-rise towers wobbled, water sloshed from swimming pools and panicked office workers ran into the streets. Elsewhere, power was knocked out and phone lines went dead.
The huge quake -- anything over magnitude 7.0 is considered to have the possibility for massive damage and loss of life -- was felt in neighbouring Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, where office buildings swayed and shook.
The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said an alert was in effect for the entire Indian Ocean area including Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives -- all affected by the devastating December 2004 Asian tsunami.
The Indonesia meteorology agency later said the danger had passed. It said at least three major aftershocks, one of magnitude 6.1, were recorded after the quake, whch hit on the eve of the start of the Muslim Ramadan holy month.
The undersea quake erupted around 1100 GMT some 100 kilometres southwest of the city of Bengkulu at a depth of roughly 30 kilometres, the United States Geological Survey said.
It adjusted an earlier report of magnitude 7.9 to 8.2.
The deputy chief official from North Bengkulu district told ElShinta radio that one person there had been killed by a falling tree while trying to evacuate, and that some buildings were "severely damaged."
Dozens of people were injured in damaged buildings, said the official, Salamun Haris. The Bengkulu airport terminal was cracked but the runway was in good condition, another official said.
There were several reports that the damage did not at first seem severe.
"I saw some parts of houses crumbled to the ground but not huge damage. People ran out of their homes," said Ayu Claudia, a resident of Bengkulu in a brief conversation before the phone lines went down.
Budi Darmawan, a policeman in the Indonesian town of Mukomuko on the west coast of Sumatra, said buildings three storeys and higher had collapsed and that tsunami warning sirens had failed to activate.
"Buildings of three floors or more are either fissured or collapsed," he told ElShinta.
He said police raced through the streets on motorcycles, warning residents to move quickly to higher ground.
"The lights are out. We cannot see anything," Slamet Purwanto, a Bengkulu resident, told the Detikcom online news agency.
Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and India all issued separate tsunami warnings telling residents to move away from the Indian Ocean coastline. Sri Lanka later lifted its warning.
Indonesia has endured repeated major quakes in recent years, including the 2004 quake that unleashed a tsunami across the Indian Ocean. It killed over 220,000 people in a dozen countries including some 168,000 in the Indonesian province of Aceh alone.

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