Tsunami warning sirens sounded around the Indian Ocean region after an 8.6 earthquake hit yesterday. During the 2004 tsunami, few warning systems were in place.
Banda Aceh, Indonesia
It was not like December 2004. Sirens wailed, warnings blared, and police moved millions of people away from coastlines around the Indian Ocean as Wednesday's 8.6 magnitude earthquake off northern Indonesia sparked fears of another devastating tsunami.
Damage was light - the quakes were horizontal rather than vertical - and the big waves never came, unlike eight years ago when walls of water roared across the same ocean and ploughed into seaside communities in 13 countries without warning.
"The reports were of people panicking but there was little damage. We need to check for sure," Eko Budiman, deputy head of the emergency mitigation agency, said at Medan airport in Sumatra, struggling to reach Simeulu island near the epicentre.
Five people died in northern Indonesia, at least two from heart attacks, the agency said.
The alerts and evacuations mean a regional system passed a major test since the tsunami of 2004 that killed 230,000 people, including 170,000 in northern Indonesia alone.
But luck helped avert disaster this time as much as the warning system, especially in Indonesia's Aceh province, where roads were jammed with residents trying to flee and damaged power lines silenced the sirens.
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