Following just hours after the Tonga earthquake and tsunami, Indonesia was hit with a 7.6 earthquake centered 32 miles north-west of Sumatra. A 6.2 aftershock followed. The intitial quake happened at 5:15 a.m. CDT. The quake was felt in Singapore and Malaysia. Ongoing updates as available. See video below. See Update 10-1-09 below.
A number of hotels in Padang have been destroyed," Rahmat Triyono, of the Indonesian geophysics and meteorology agency was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post. "Up to now we haven't been able to reach Padang. Communications have been cut."Tsunami warnings were issued but cancelled. The faultline is known as the "Ring of Fire," the same fault that hosted the devastating 2004 quake and tsunami that killed close to 250,000.
A report just hours old says the death toll in Sumatra has reached 1100. "Hundred are injured." Many are said to remain trapped under rubble. In Padang, a city of 1 million, a Padang school building collapsed. Five children died and last reports are that 40-50 children are still trapped. Large areas of the city have been destroyed. Emergency workers fought driving rains. Power and communications are out in Padang. All three of the city's hospitals were "severely" damaged. Doctors are treating patients in tents. There is an extreme shortage of medical personnel.
Padang itself, a port city encircled by mountains, is built on one of the world's most active fault lines: the same one that sparked the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Nonetheless, locals were shocked by the quake's ferocity. "I saw the road move up and down like a wave," said Anas Taylor, 54. "The ground was not just shaking, but actually jumping up and down. It's by far the worst I've ever seen."Fuel is scarce and looting is reported. Road are blocked so exiting the city is impossible. Professor John McCloskey, a geophyscicist at the University of Ulster says it is not likely that the Indonesia Ring of Fire earthquake and the Tonga-Somao earthquakes are related. The distance between the quakes — 10,000km (6,200 miles) —and the orientation of the tectonic plates made a causal link physically implausible, he said.
Early estimates suggest that the Sumatra quake occurred about 50 miles beneath the Earth’s crust, so deep that there was little or no movement on the ocean floor, and no resultant tsunami. A key concern is that the quake could have led to an increase in pressure at other points along the fault line, which could trigger a second tremor closer to the surface. “The real danger in the coming days is that a second larger quake with a magnitude of around 8.5 could occur just off the coast of Padang,” Professor McCloskey said. That could result in a huge tsunami submerging the town and surrounding coastline, which has a population of about 1.5 million.McCloskey said warnings do not reach the people so residents have been instructed to move to higher ground "if they felt a tremor lasting more than 30 seconds." For information about the Somoa-American Samoa earthquake on September 29th, see this.