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After quakes, a tsunami spares most of Indonesia

September 14, 2007|From the Associated Press

PADANG, INDONESIA — A powerful earthquake that struck off Indonesia generated a 10-foot-high tsunami, but the full force of the waves moved toward open sea instead of the shore, a seismologist said Thursday.

At least 10 people were killed and scores injured in the three strongest tremors, which struck within a 24-hour period. Hundreds slept Thursday night in parks or on sidewalks.

The 8.4-magnitude quake that first shook Southeast Asia on Wednesday was the strongest this year. But the huge mass of water it raised was pushed out to sea, 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 wall of water did hit at least one fishing village on Sumatra, the island ravaged by the 2004 disaster that killed more than 220,000 people in a dozen nations. A dozen houses in the village were swept out to sea.

Two powerful temblors -- magnitudes 7.8 and 7.1 -- followed off Sumatra, and a smaller quake shook Sulawesi island, more than a thousand miles to the east, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The worst destruction was caused by the jolts along the Sumatran coast, especially in the city of Padang.

"At least five large buildings -- including mosques, houses and a school -- collapsed," said Surya Budhi, overseeing emergency response in the area.

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