- Associated Press - Monday, October 25, 2010

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) - A powerful earthquake hit off western Indonesia late Monday, briefly triggering a tsunami warning that sent thousands of panicked residents fleeing to high ground. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The 7.5-magnitude temblor struck at a depth of 9 miles (15 kilometers) off Sumatra island, said the U.S. Geological Survey.

At least five towns in the provinces of Bengkulu and West Sumatra were badly jolted, officials and witnesses said, as were the nearby Mentawai islands.

“Every was running out of their houses,” said Sofyan Alawi, a resident in the city of Padang, adding that roads leading to surrounding hills were quickly jammed with cars and motorcycles.

“We kept looking back to see if a wave was coming,” said 28-year-old resident Ade Syahputra.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties after the 9:42 p.m. (10:42 a.m. EDT, 1442 GMT) quake, said Ade Edward, a disaster management agency official, adding that the area was still on alert for aftershocks.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity due to its location on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire.

The city of Padang was badly shaken one year ago by a 7.6-magnitude quake that killed at least 700 people and flattened or severely damaged 180,000 buildings.

That followed the 2004 tsunami off Sumatra’s westernmost province of Aceh that was triggered by a 9.1-magnitude quake and killed 230,000 in a dozen countries, roughly half in Indonesia.

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Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report from Jakarta.

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