By JULIAN GAVAGHAN | MAIL ONLINE | APRIL 11, 2012
Buildings shook for four minutes and there were reports of people jumping from windows in a desperate attempt to escape.
Patients also poured out of hospitals, some with drips still attached to their arms. In some places, electricity was briefly cut.
Then, two hours later, a massive aftershock – with a similarly huge magnitude of 8.2 – struck only 110 miles further out to sea, unleashing even more panic.
A tsunami alert was issued for other countries across the Indian Ocean today, including India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Burma, Thailand, the Maldives and other Indian Ocean islands, Malaysia, Pakistan, Somalia, Oman, Iran, Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa and Singapore.
There are fears of a repeat of the 9.1-magnitude quake seven years go that triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people. Nearly three quarters lived in Aceh, which is on the Sumatra island.
The first quake, which was centred 20 miles beneath the ocean floor, was later thought unlikely to have triggered a fatal wave.
However, the aftershock, which was centred 10 miles beneath the ocean around 380 miles from the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, may yet unleash a tsunami.
Roger Musson, seismologist at the British geological survey who has studied Sumatra’s fault lines, said the first tremor was a strike-slip quake, not a thrust quake, which causes the sea bed to flip up.
Mr Cameron is visiting the country’s capital, Jakarta, which is 1,600 miles south-east of the province and on a different island, Java. No tremors have been felt there and the city is unlikely to be hit.
He told President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: ‘Our thoughts should be with those who are affected.
‘Britain of course stands ready to help if help is required.
‘We will stand with you and your government and your people at this time of worry.