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Powerful quake hits Indonesia-tsunami warning for much of the Indian Ocean region

A powerful earthquake hit Indonesia on Wednesday, causing buildings to sway in at least four countries, and authorities issued a tsunami warning for much of the Indian Ocean region.

The undersea quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.9 and hit at about 6:10 p.m. (7:10 a.m. EDT), the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was centered 65 miles southwest of Bengkulu, on Sumatra island, at a depth of 9.7 miles, the USGS said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for wide areas of the region.

"Earthquakes of this size have the potential to generate a widespread destructive tsunami that can affect coastlines across the entire Indian Ocean Basin," it said, warning that waves could hit Indonesia and Australia within an hour, and Sri Lanka and India within three hours.

Residents in Bengkulu — where at least one building was demolished — said the quake triggered panic and that people ran inland.

"Everyone is running out of their houses in every direction," according to Wati Said, who spoke by cell phone standing outside her house. "We think our neighborhood is high enough. God willing, if the water comes, it will not touch us here."

"Communication is cut, we can't call out," she added. "I don't know how you contacted us. Everyone is afraid."

The temblor could also be felt in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, 375 miles away, where office workers streamed down the stairwells of tall, swaying buildings.

Some people in high-rises in neighboring Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand also felt the quake.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

In December 2004, a massive earthquake struck off Sumatra island and triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries, including 160,000 people in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh.

Source: Yahoo! News

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