A massive earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Richter scale – an intensity sufficient to be classified as a "great earthquake" by experts at the U.S. Geological Survey stuck near the island of Nias, off Sumatra's West Coast, shortly after 11 p.m. local time on Monday, March 28, 2005. "Great" "earthquakes" are among those classified by experts as the most powerful on record. The latest quake has been labled an apparent "fraternal twin" of the devastating December 26, 2004, seismic event which measured magnitude 8.9 and claimed in excess of 250,000 lives.
Felt in all major population centers in North Sumatra and as far away as Singapore, Malaysia and Bangkok – the quake sent many people into the streets in panic as a series of after-shocks continued through the morning hours. In many villages and cities in Sumatra people sought the safety of local mosques or on high ground fearing a tsumani, similar to the wave which caused catastrophic destruction following a quake of similar intensity on December 26, 2004. While officials in Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka issued tsunami warnings in connection with the latest earthquake, the much-feared tidal wave did not materialize.
Large Death Toll and Significant Property Damage Reported
Officials are still trying to asses the damage and deaths caused by the latest quake. While Indonesia's Vice President Jusuf Kalla initially told the BBC that he feared as many as 2,000 people may have been killed by the quake it now appears that the final death toll may be closer to half that total. Widespread damage and loss of life, however, has occurred on Nias island, near the latest quake's epicenter. Officials estimate that 80% of all multi-level buildings on Nias were leveled by the earthquake with many people now trapped inside the remaining rubble.
Bali – at least 2,500 kilometers away from the latest earthquake, escaped completely unscathed from the disaster. Residents and holidaymakers only experience of the natural disaster – like most of the world –was via news reports carried on television and radio.
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