Strong Earthquake Prompts Tsunami Scare in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.4 rattled Indonesia's North Sumatra province Sunday, prompting a brief local tsunami watch, knocking out power and damaging some homes, officials said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the afternoon quake hit 135 miles southeast of Banda Aceh at a depth at 38 miles. Indonesia and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu issued a tsunami watch for the area, but both canceled their warnings less than 90 minutes later.

Fauzi, chief of Indonesia's meteorology agency, said the closest town to the epicenter was Meulaboh, where a small "tsunami wave" just 7.9 inches high was detected by a buoy off the coast.

Fauzi, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said the official tsunami watch had been canceled.

Local media reports said the quake caused panic in many parts of Aceh -- which was hit hard by the earthquake that triggered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people -- and in neighboring North Sumatra province.

Lt. Col. Widodo, chief of West Aceh police in Meulaboh, told MetroTV that many residents remained outside in the streets for fear of another quake.

"But up until now, there is no indication of damages or casualties," said Widodo.

Minor damage to the control tower of the Cut Nyak Dhien airport near Meulaboh -- including broken windows and cracks on the wall -- did not disrupt airport operations, said Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan.

Activities at Meulaboh seaport were also briefly disturbed as workers fled to higher ground after hearing the tsunami alert.

"But all things have returned to normal now," Ervan said.

Riswan, local government secretary on Simeulue island, said the quake damaged some houses and caused a power outage, but phones were still working.

Indonesia rests on a series of fault lines that make the archipelago nation one of the most world's most earthquake-prone. A quake last year killed more than 1,000 people on Sumatra, but a 7.7 quake last month in the same area caused only minor damage.