Indian Ocean tsunami warning as 6.1 magnitude earthquake hits Southeast Asian country
A tsunami warning was issued after the US Geological Survey reported a magnitude 6.1 earthquake off the coast of East Timor on May 27. The earthquake “could be capable of triggering a tsunami affecting the Indian Ocean region”, according to a tsunami advisory group. . According to the USGS, the earthquake occurred at a depth of 51.4 kilometers (32 miles) off the eastern edge of the island of Timor, which is split between East Timor and Indonesia.
A tsunami warning has been issued for the region by the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWMS). East Timor is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, which means it is prone to earthquakes.
East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste, is an island nation with Indonesia to the north and Australia to the south. Coral reefs surround the island, which are rich in aquatic life. Monuments in the capital Dili commemorate the country’s struggles for independence from Portugal in 1975 and then from Indonesia in 2002.
A magnitude 6.2 earthquake shook North Sumatra in Indonesia in February, killing a dozen people. A magnitude 9.1 earthquake hit the coast of Sumatra in 2004, triggering a tsunami that killed 220,000 people in the region, including about 170,000 in Indonesia.
When a tsunami with the potential to cause widespread flooding is imminent, forecast or in progress, a tsunami warning is issued. The public is warned that dangerous coastal flooding with strong currents is possible and may last for several hours after arrival.
The warnings inform emergency management personnel that the entire area threatened by the tsunami must be evacuated. Local officials may need to take appropriate action, such as evacuating low-lying coastal regions and moving vessels to deeper waters when safe. Warnings may be revised, regionally modified, downgraded or cancelled. Initial warnings are usually based only on seismic data in order to deliver the earliest possible warning.