- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

PADANG, Indonesia — Indonesia was shaken by series of powerful earthquakes in less than 24 hours yesterday, a day after survivors watched in horror as the ocean retreated and raced back to shore as a 10-foot-high tsunami.

Hundreds of houses were destroyed in Wednesday’s quake that sent panicked residents fleeing to the hills. At least 10 persons were killed.

The most powerful quake yesterday was one registering a magnitude of 7.8 off Sumatra, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

Indonesia issued and lifted several tsunami warnings throughout the day, including one after a 6.2-magnitude quake at 11:09 p.m. that was centered 166 miles offshore from the island of Sumatra, 34 miles beneath the ocean floor, the USGS said.

Wednesday’s 8.4-magnitude quake that first shook Southeast Asia was the strongest this year. But the huge mass of water it spawned was pushed to sea rather than land, said Mike Turnbull, a seismologist at Australia’s Central Queensland University.

“It’s a quirk of nature that this is how it happened,” he said. “It could quite easily have been the other way.”

The 10-foot wave slammed into at least one village on Sumatra, the island ravaged by the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen nations.

Rukhlan, a 43-year-old fisherman, said residents of the village, Muara Maras, were horrified when they saw the ocean retreat and then race back to shore.

“I heard people screaming and yelling tsunami, tsunami,” he said. “I ran to find my children, but they had already run to the hills.”

A dozen houses were swept out to sea. Smaller waves were recorded further down the coast.

Temblors registering magnitudes of 7.8, 7.1 and two of 6.2 followed yesterday in western and eastern Indonesia, the USGS said. They were accompanied by dozens of aftershocks.

The worst destruction was caused by the jolts along the coast, especially in the city of Padang, 115 miles from the epicenter below the seabed off the western coast of Sumatra.

“At least five large buildings — including mosques, houses and a school — collapsed,” said Surya Budhi, who was overseeing emergency response in the area. Rescuers searched for survivors at a heavily damaged car dealership. A fire broke out on the fourth floor of a shopping mall.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, with a population of 235 million people, is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

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