Tremors reported in parts of Singapore as magnitude 6.5 earthquake hits off Indonesia's Sumatra

An earthquake with an initial magnitude of 6.2 was recorded off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Thursday (June 2).
An earthquake with an initial magnitude of 6.2 was recorded off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Thursday (June 2). PHOTO: USGS

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE - The Indonesian island of Sumatra was hit by a magnitude 6.5 earthquake with tremors felt in neighbouring Singapore just before sunrise on Thursday (June 2).

Indonesia's Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) said the quake struck at about 5.56am local time, but preliminary assessment by the country’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) also indicated that a tsunami was unlikely.

Local authorities, however, reported two injured and damages to nine buildings in West Sumatra but tele-communication links and electricity supply were not affected, said Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of data and information at the BNPB.

Dr Sutopo said the epicentre of the quake was detected at a depth of 72km and about 79km off the coast of West Sumatra with other areas on the Indonesian island, including Bengkulu province, experiencing strong to moderate shocks.

"Very hard tremors were felt by people in the south coastal district and Muko-Muko (in Bengkulu) for about 20 to 30 seconds. Beds and home appliances shifted out of position, people panicked and rushed out of the house," he said. 

Besides Bengkulu, other areas that felt the quake include Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province, where strong tremors were felt, as well as Jambi and Pekanbaru, among others.

In Singapore, residents across the island said they experienced tremors lasting for up to a minute.

Ms Jamilah Ismail, who lives on the 25th floor at Marine Crescent, said: "I was reading the newspapers when I felt giddy, and then noticed that my bedroom door which was ajar was rattling.

"The cord dangling from the ceiling fan was also swaying from side to side."

Civil servant W. Ong, who lives in Sengkang, said she was about to get out of bed when she felt it move.

"That was just before 7am. It happened a few more times but the tremors were not as strong as the first jolt."

Fellow Sengkang resident Krish Srikanth added: "I felt as if my head spinning. The table was shaking for a few seconds. My other family members felt it too."

Twitter user Bravodog said his apartment "shook" for almost 30 seconds.

Twitter user Cholina Em posted a video of light fixtures shaking in a home in Tanjong Rhu.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesman said it did not receive any calls requesting for immediate assistance.

"The earthquake was triggered by subduction activity of the Indian, Australian and the Eurasian tectonic plates in the top of the Benioff zone," Dr Sutopo said, referring to an inclined zone in which deep earthquakes typically occur.

Sumatra has been struck by at least two major earthquakes in recent months - a magnitude 5.9 quake on April 10 about 61km south-west of Bengkulu as well as a powerful magnitude 7.8 earthquake on Mar 2 some 808km off the coast of Padang.

The island was also where a tsunami, caused by a magnitude 7.5 quake, destroyed hundreds of homes in the Mentawai Islands, just off West Sumatra, in 2010. More than 461 people died in that disaster, which came not long after a catastrophic 7.6 earthquake in Padang in 2009 which killed more than 1,100 people.

Geology experts have long said that a geological time bomb is ticking in Indonesia, and the city of Padang sits near it.

In the last decade, five major quakes, including the catastrophic 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, have struck the city, giving it the dubious distinction of being the earthquake capital of the world. Similarly, findings published two years ago also found that coastal communities such as Padang, traditionally believed to be shielded from waves by offshore islands, may be at higher risk of tsunamis.

tkchan@sph.com.sg