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It was not immediately clear why the region was spared another tsunami. Experts agreed the magnitude of the earthquake was sufficient to create one.
“At this point in time we don’t know what type of fault occurred … and that is critical information,” USGS spokesman Doug Blake said. “It is in the aftershock zone of the December 26 quake. It’s a little bit south, but it’s on the same fault.”
A 9.0 earthquake would release about double the amount of energy as an 8.7 quake, said a USGS geologist.
The quake may have sent its energy farther south than last year’s quake, said Robert Cessaro of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
“So all that pressure to the north would have been relieved” by the December quake, said Cessaro. “We think this event probably ruptured to the south, with the beam of energy probably propagated to the south.”
Few land masses lie to the south, but among them are the Cocos Islands.
About three hours after the quake, a “small” tsunami was measured on the Cocos tide gauge, the USGS said. It did not elaborate.
In Thailand, thousands of people in the six provinces affected by the December 26 tsunami moved to higher ground or 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) inland, the governor of Phang Nga province said.
Prass Prawoto, an aid worker in Banda Aceh, which was severely damaged by the December tsunami and quake, said Indonesians moved to higher ground, fearing another massive tsunami. But he said he had not heard of any injuries.
CNN producer Kathy Quiano, watching television reports from Jakarta, said there was widespread panic in Banda Aceh, as residents rushed inland. Electricity and phone service were out in major sections of the city.
A number of traffic accidents occurred as a result, and people were injured, she said, citing local television reports.
CNN’s Naurant Prapanya contributed to this report.