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2 powerful earthquakes rock Indonesia

An 8.2 temblor kills at least five on Sumatra, and is followed by a 7.8. Residents fearing a tsunami flee to heights.

September 13, 2007|Paul Watson | Times Staff Writer

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra early today, triggering another tsunami warning as rescue crews searched the rubble from a magnitude 8.2 temblor that killed at least five people a day earlier.

Buildings shook as far away as Singapore. In Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, more than 370 miles from Wednesday's epicenter, buildings swayed, sending office workers and high-rise residents running into the streets.

Today's quake was centered 115 miles southeast of Padang; Wednesday's was about 80 miles southwest of Bengkulu, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on its website. Both were relatively close to the surface.

Tsunami warnings were issued for all Indian Ocean nations Wednesday, the USGS reported, but no significant waves were generated by either quake.

About 40 minutes after the 6:10 p.m. quake Wednesday, Budi Darmawan, a police officer who is posted near the beach in Bengkulu, said most residents had fled to higher ground.

Many people feared a repetition of the massive tsunami that hit Indonesia and several other nations in December 2004, killing more than 220,000 people.

Darmawan had received only one report of a building being flattened, but other structures were said to be damaged, he told Indonesian radio.

With 1.5 million residents, Bengkulu is not densely populated compared with other regions of Indonesia.

Phone links to the area were knocked out, making it difficult for Indonesian authorities to make a quick assessment of the quake's effects.

Local media reported that at least two people were killed in a car showroom when a building collapsed in Padang, the largest city in the area.

But the deaths were not confirmed by officials, and about three hours after the quake there were no reports of widespread casualties.

Rustam Pakaya, head of the Health Ministry's crisis department, said today: "We are still counting. But some of the buildings of the Health Ministry, like hospitals, offices and houses, are also damaged."

The runway of Bengkulu's airport was cracked, but the flight schedule remained normal, a government official told an Indonesian television network.

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paul.watson@latimes.com

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