PHUKET: IF there's a tsunami, it will hit Phuket at 5.40pm, officials at the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation told Phuketwan at 4.45pm today. Patong Hpspital has moved patients to top floors. Phuket International Airport paused outgoing flights.
PHUKET: An earthquake of undetermined magnitude shook parts of Phuket this afternoon. In Phuket City, residents reported feeling the tremor about 3.50pm.
The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation confirmed immediately that an earthquake had occurred off Sumatra. The entire region was affected.
At 4.20pm Thailand's Royal Thai Navy reported a tsunami had been generated, but could not say of what scale. The DDPM said that evacuation preparations were being made, but the order had not been given yet to evacuate.
Hundreds of people were already on the move along Phuket's west coast and the entire Andaman region. People in the provinces of Phuket, Ranong, Phang Nga, Krabi, Trang and Satun were heading for higher ground, just in case.
Sathian Peachkiang, the head of the village of Nam Khem in Phang Nga, where 800 died in the 2004 tsunami, said the warning sirens had sounded and villagers had fled to higher ground.
Traffic was already reported to be chaotic around Patong and Phuket's west coast. Hospitals and shopping centres - in some cases a long way from the coast - evacuated because of the earthquake as a precaution.
News agency reports said the ''massive earthquake'' rocked Indonesia. It was not known whether the earthquake had triggered a tsunami, but many people were evacuating to be certain.
Residents of endangered areas were advised to switch on the television to listen to Channel 3 for reports. Mobile telephone services were quickly overwhelmed by mutliple calls.
It is believed evacuations were underway along parts of Phuket's holiday west coast and in Krabi and Phang Nga.
Initial reports put the quake at a magnitude of between 8.6 and 8.9. The Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004 was caused by an earthquake of 9.1.
Indonesia's geophysical agency issued a tsunami warning following the quake, which had its epicentre in Aceh. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued Indian Ocean-wide tsunami warning.
Tremors were also felt in Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and several other cities on the eastern coast of India.
The quake struck 500 km southwest of the city of Banda Aceh, on the northern tip of Indonesia's Sumatra island, at a depth of 33 km, the US Geological survey said.
Indonesia's disaster management agency said power was down in Aceh province and people were gathering on high ground as sirens warned of the danger, Reuters news agency reported.
''The electricity is down, there are traffic jams to access higher ground. Sirens and Koran recitals from mosques are everywhere,'' said Sutopo, spokesman for the agency.
The 2004 tsunami, triggered in the same area, killed 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean, including 160,000 in Aceh and 5400 in Thailand.