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Powerful quake hits off western Indonesia; tsunami warning issued

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia – A powerful earthquake hit waters off western Indonesia early Wednesday, prompting officials to issue a tsunami warning. Panicked residents poured into the streets, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage.
    
The U.S. Geological Survey said the 7.3-magnitude quake struck 260 miles (420 kilometres) off the coast of Aceh province just after midnight. It was centred 18 miles (30 kilometres) beneath the ocean floor.
    
Residents in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, and other cities along the coast fled their homes and waited in the streets. Patients were evacuated from at least one hospital as a precaution.
    
“It was very strong,” said Darmili, district head in Seumele. “But so far we’re not hearing anything about injuries or real damage.”
    
Officials elsewhere had similar reports.
    
Arief Akhir, of Indonesia’s geological agency, said a tsunami warning had been issued. But more than an hour after the quake, there were no signs of seismically triggered waves.
    
Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
    
A giant quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Aceh.

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