JAKARTA, Indonesia – An extremely powerful earthquake rocked northern Indonesia today, sparking massive tidal waves across the region – the apparent cause of 160 deaths in Sri Lanka. More than a dozen people were reported killed elsewhere, officials and witnesses said.
The U.S. Geological Survey said a magnitude-8.5 quake – one capable of massive damage – struck off the coast of the island of Sumatra at 8 a.m. today. Massive waves crashed into coastal villages over a wide area of Sri Lanka today, killing 160 people and displacing thousands of others, officials said.
The deaths occurred in the northeastern districts of Muttur and Trincomalee, which were inundated by waves as high as 20 feet, said D. Rodrigo, a Muttur district official.
No official immediately said what the cause of the waves was, but they occurred shortly after the earthquake in Indonesia.
Witnesses told Jakarta’s el-Shinta radio station that nine people were killed in the northernmost province of Aceh, and several shops and small buildings had collapsed. But telephone and most communication links to the region were out and there was no immediate way to confirm the casualty and damage reports.
“The ground was shaking for a long time,” resident Yayan Zamzani told the station. “It must be the strongest earthquake in the last 15 years.”
Four people died in Thailand in the southern tourist resort of Phuket .