Updated: Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:19:53 GMT | By Agence France-Presse

Indonesia says could be hit by small tsunami from Chile quake

Indonesia warned Wednesday that it could be hit by a small tsunami generated by an 8.2-magnitude earthquake that struck off Chile's Pacific coast, telling residents to stay away from beaches.


Indonesia says could be hit by small tsunami from Chile quake

Sunken fishing boats are seen on April 2, 2014 at the Riquelme Cove, in Iquique, northern Chile, after a powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit off Chile's Pacific coast - by Aldo Solimano

Tsunami waves up to half a metre (1.6 feet) high "will possibly affect several areas in Indonesia" from early Thursday, said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The quake struck late Tuesday, sending tsunami waves of more than two metres crashing into Chile's northern coast. At least six people were killed in the disaster which sent panicked residents pouring into the streets and prompted the government to order more than 900,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Nugroho said that the first tsunami waves could arrive at around 5:00 am Thursday (2200 GMT Wednesday) in the eastern region of Papua, and that authorities in 19 provinces of Indonesia -- which is thousands of miles (kilometres) away from where the quake struck -- had been alerted.

"We are urging the provincial and district governments within these areas to take precautions by urging people to stay away from beaches," he said in a statement.

Other areas that could be affected by the tsunami include parts of the main island of Java, the resort island of Bali, central Sulawesi island, and the Indonesian part of Borneo island, he said. 

"People must remain calm," he said, adding that no one had so far been evacuated.

Indonesia, which is frequently hit by earthquakes and has scores of active volcanoes, is particularly vulnerable to even small tsunamis as many people on the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands live in poor, coastal communities. 

More than 170,000 people were killed in Aceh province on western Sumatra island in 2004 when it was hit by a huge quake-triggered tsunami, which also left thousands dead in other countries around the Indian Ocean. 

Authorities have well-developed early tsunami warning systems and tend to be cautious.

Later Wednesday, Japan's meteorological agency said it was assessing whether to issue a tsunami advisory after the Chile quake, as authorities braced for waves potentially as high as one metre.

It said tsunami waves could reach coastal zones of the country early Thursday, but that it was still assessing the danger.

Large areas of the Japanese coastline that are subject to a possible tsunami alert were also hit by a 2011 quake and tsunami, which killed more than 18,000 and triggered a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Authorities in New Zealand and Australia, southeast of Indonesia and with Pacific coastlines, said they faced no tsunami threat.

In 1960, a 9.5-magnitude earthquake in Chile sent a tsunami across the Pacific that killed more than 140 people in Japan.

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