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M8.7 Nias-Simeulue Earthquake, 2005


28 March 2005


W of Teluk Asin, Pulau Bangkaru


16:09:36 UTC (23:09:36 WIT)


2.074 N (NEIC)


97.013 E (NEIC)


30.0 kms (NEIC)


Mw 8.7 (HRV), 8.1 (NEIC).

Additional Info

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A "great" earthquake struck the Banyak, Nias and Simeulue Islands off the west coast of Sumatra on 28 March 2005 at local time. The earthquake had a magnitude of Mw=8.7 and caused considerable damage to life & property in the region. A damaging local tsunami was generated in the vicinity of the aforementioned islands adding to the damage. This earthquake was initially believed to have been a large aftershock from the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake that occurred to the north. It has since been determined to have been triggered due to changes in the static stress regime of the region brought about by the 2004 event and was thus not a large aftershock.

The earthquake was centred 9 kms W of Teluk Asin, Pulau Bangkaru (Sumatra), Indonesia,
or 30.7 kms SW of Alaban, Pulau Tuangku (Sumatra), Indonesia,
or 67.6 kms ESE of Pasirtinggi, Simeulue Island (Sumatra), Indonesia,
or 74.1 kms NW of Sifahandra, Nias Island (Sumatra), Indonesia,
110 kms NW of Gunungsitoli, Nias Island (Sumatra), Indonesia,
or 250 kms SW of Medan (Sumatra), Indonesia,
or 429 kms SE of Banda Aceh (Sumatra), Indonesia,
or 640 kms SSE of Campbell Bay (Great Nicobar Island), India,
or 780 kms WNW of Changi International Airport, Singapore.

According to a report by the government of Indonesia'
s agency for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, 839 people were killed and 6,279 others were injured in this earthquake. The island of Nias was hardest hit badly damaging several villages and the large towns of Gunungsitoli and Telukdalam. Eyewitness said the shaking was so severe that people could not stand. Damage also occurred on the island of Simeulue and in the town of Sinabang in the southern part of the same island. Parts of the Banyak Islands sank by as much as 3-feet while parts of Nias such as Lagundri Bay were uplifted. Damage was also reported at Gunung Meriah, Meulaboh, Samatiga, Simpang Kiri, Singkil and in the Tapanauli regency on Sumatra. The earthquake was strongly felt in Banda Aceh, Lhokseumawe, Medan and in the Bireuen Regency on Sumatra. It was also felt at Bengkulu, Jambi, Krui, Padang, Pekanbaru and Riau. At Banda Aceh, the shock was experienced for nearly 75-seconds. People had some difficulty standing and eyewitness saw cars and trucks shaking under the impact of the quake. Panic followed once the shaking ended and hundreds of people fled to higher ground, using any means available. Similar scenes of panic were witnessed at Medan and in other cities in Sumatra.

In Thailand, the earthquake was felt in many parts of the country. High rise buildings in the capital, Bangkok and in the city of Hat Yai were temporarily evacuated. In areas hard hit by the December 2004 tsunami such as Khao Lhak, Krabi, Nakhon si Thammarat, Satun and Songhkla, people immediately began moving to higher ground once they felt the earthquake. A few buildings in Hat Yai and Songhkla suffered minor damage. In Malaysia, the earthquake was felt along the entire west coast including at Johor, Kedah, Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Muar, Penang, Petaling Jaya, Pontian, Port Klang, Tanjung Pelepas and Tanjung Piai. Tremors were felt in high-rise buildings in Alexandra, Bekor, East Coast, Punggol, Rochor, Sengkang, Toa Payoh, Whampoa, Woodlands in Singapore. Strong tremors were felt in the Nicobar Islands in India. Farther north the quake was mildly felt by the occupants in the upper floors of buildings in Diglipur & Port Blair in the Andaman Islands. Tremors from this earthquake were not felt on the Indian mainland. However, seismic seiches were observed in ponds & standing water bodies at Basanti, Canning, Kolkata and Kulpi in West Bengal. Mild tremors from the earthquake were felt along the east coast of Sri Lanka and as far as the Maldives.

A damaging local tsunami struck Banyak, Nias, Simeulue and the west coast of Sumatra following the earthquake. Fearing another tsunami thousands of people fled to higher ground in Banda Aceh and other parts of coastal Sumatra, Indonesia. A boat off the Banyak Islands experienced strong swells and unusual currents for as long as two hours after the earthquake. A local tsunami struck Nias Island with wave heights of 4-5 metres and swept away many people at Sirombu. A 3-4 metre wave struck the islands of Banyak and Simeulue and the Sinkil district on Sumatra. At Sinkil, residents reported a waves of 4-metres, causing flooding upto a metre high in some parts. A 2-metre wave struck the village of Sirombu on the west coast of Nias sweeping away a few people. Flooding upto a metre was also reported from as far north as Meulaboh. The south coast of the island of Simeulue was struck by a 3-metre tsunami causing moderate damage to the port and airport facilities on Simeulue Island and resulted in at least 100 deaths. On Sumatra, the tsunami flooded parts of the towns of Meulaboh, Sigli and Singkil. At Singkil, a tsunami, reported to have been up to 4-metres high damaged many buildings. At Meulaboh, the sea receeded, drawing out the water from the river and then returned to flood coast.

The earthquake did not generate an Indian Oceanwide tsunami although measurable changes were recorded at many places in the Indian Ocean basin. Tsunami warnings were issued for many countries in the region including India and Sri Lanka but were later withdrawn. In Sri Lanka, the National Aquatic Resource & Development Agency reported waves with a maximum height of 2.3 metres at Kirinda in southern Sri Lanka. According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) tide gauges in the Indian Ocean recorded minor wave activity in the Australian Cocos Island (4-9 inches), the Maldives (6-inches) and Sri Lanka (10-12-inches). There were reports of the sea receeding at several places along the coast of Chennai, Mamalapuram and Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu and Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh in India.

Thousands of people in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand were either evacuated to safer places or fled of their on accord to higher grounds. In Sumatra, roads leading out of Banda Aceh were jammed with vehicles and people trying to flee the city. Similar scenes were repeated across the region. In Sri Lanka, residents of Colombo, Trincomalee and other coastal areas were advised to more away from the coast as a precaution. At least 5 deaths were reported from Sri Lanka. These were the result of road accidents or heart attacks due to panic driven escapes by the population to higher ground at places such as Mavadippalli and Kalmunai. Hundreds of people fled to higher ground at places such as Batticaloa and Vadamaradhhi East. The residents of the Maldives were also advised to remain on alert for possible tsunami activity. In India, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and the coastal areas of the mainland states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, the Lakshadweep Islands, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu were alerted. In Chennai, roads leading to beachfront areas including the Marina Beach were cordoned of. In Thailand, many people immediately moved to higher ground in places such as Khao Lhak, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, Patong Beach, Phang Nga, Phuket, Satun, and Takua Pa, Trang and similar scenes were witnessed at Kedah, Langkawi, Penang & Perlis in Malaysia. Alerts were issued in countries as far as Kenya and Madagascar in east Africa and in the island nation of Mauritius.

01) National Earthquake Information Centre (NEIC), Golden, USA.
Harvard Centroid Moment Tensor Solution (HRV), Harvard, USA.
03) Macroseismic information has been compiled by the ASC from reports by local media and local NGO personnel.

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