Huge quake strikes off India’s Andaman Islands

PORT BLAIR, August 10, 2009 (AFP) – A huge 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck off the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday, triggering panic as people fled their homes amid initial warnings of a possible tsunami. A tsunami alert issued for India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh was later cancelled by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center of the US National Weather Service.

“Sea level readings indicate that a significant tsunami was not generated,” the centre said.

The police control centre in Port Blair, the main town of India’s Andaman Islands, said there were no immediate reports of any major damage or casualties.

The quake hit at 1:55 am (1955 GMT Monday) around 263 kilometres (163 miles) north of Port Blair, and was around 33 kilometres (20.2 miles) deep.

The Andamans were badly hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami which was triggered by an earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra and sent giant waves crashing into countries around the Indian Ocean.

“It was very frightening. Everything started shaking and people were running out of their homes,” said Mrinal Sarkar, a villager in Diglipur in the northern Andamans.

“People are afraid to go back inside,” Sarkar told AFP. <