Big quake hits off India's Andamans, no tsunami

PORT BLAIR, India Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:09pm EDT

A massive magnitude 7.6 quake struck in the Indian Ocean off India's Andaman Islands, triggering a tsunami watch for India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on Monday. REUTERS/Graphics

A massive magnitude 7.6 quake struck in the Indian Ocean off India's Andaman Islands, triggering a tsunami watch for India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on Monday.

Credit: Reuters/Graphics

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PORT BLAIR, India (Reuters) - A major earthquake of magnitude 7.6 struck in the Indian Ocean off India's Andaman Islands early on Tuesday, but a tsunami alert for India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh was later canceled.

Three hours after the earthquake there were no reports of a tsunami or of any casualties from the tremor, officials said.

"We all ran out as fast as possible and have not gone back inside, fearing another quake. Everything was shaking, we are all very, very scared," Subhasis Paul, who runs a provision store in Diglipur island in North Andaman, told Reuters by telephone.

"People are calling each other out of their homes and everyone is huddled together outside," Paul said from Diglipur, about 300 km (185 miles) north of Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The small chain of islands lie hundreds of miles east of India in the Indian Ocean.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, initially reported as a magnitude 7.7, struck at 1:55 a.m. (1955 GMT on Monday). It was relatively shallow, at a depth of 33 km (20.6 miles), and was centered 260 km (160 miles) north of Port Blair.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there could be a destructive wave along coasts up to 1,000 km (600 miles) from the epicenter, but it later withdrew its warning.

"Sea level readings indicate that a significant tsunami was not generated," it said in a statement.

Officials at the tsunami alert center in southern India said chances of a tsunami were remote.

"The earthquake has not caused displacement of water necessary to generate a tsunami either in the deep sea or near coastal locations," said Rajesh, a senior official at the Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services.

"We are monitoring the situation, but everything appears normal so far. It seems we have been lucky," added Rajesh, who goes by one name.

A 7.6 magnitude quake is classified by the USGS as a major earthquake and is capable of widespread, heavy damage.

A massive quake in the Indian Ocean in 2004 caused a tsunami that killed some 228,000 people, the majority in the Indonesian province of Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

WOKEN BY A JOLT

"I was on the balcony, and it felt very strange for a while, like my chair was leaning to one side," said Reuters correspondent Martin Petty in Bangkok. "So I got out of there sharpish. Aftershocks went on for a good few minutes."

In Indonesia, a meteorology agency official said his agency was monitoring Aceh, but there had been no reports of a tsunami.

"I was waken up by the jolt," said Kyaw Min, a resident of Yangon in Myanmar.

In the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, officials said there was no news of any immediate loss of life or damage.

"We have patrol parties everywhere possible and everything appears normal. We are asking people not to panic and return to their homes," P. Karunakaran, a police superintendent in charge of the North and Middle Andaman region said by telephone from Mayabandar, 270 km (165 miles) north of Port Blair.

(Additional reporting by Ed Davies in Jakarta, Bappa Majumdar in New Delhi, Martin Petty in Bangkok and Aung Hla Tun in Yangon; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Dean Yates)

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