An earthquake with an initial magnitude of 8.7 has struck under the sea off Indonesia’s northern Aceh province.

The quake triggered a tsunami warning across the Indian Ocean region.

India has just issued a warning to the Andaman and Nicobar  Islands as well as to communities on the eastern mainland.

Aljazeera’s Phillip Charlesworth who is in  Indonesia at present says its difficult to estimate the amount of damage at this stage.

“Search and rescue times will be activated and they will be going to areas where any potential damage would be probably city’s like Banda Aceh or further down the coast, places like Malabo. But at this stage is still to early to say what the damage is.”

Reuters reports that people in the region were making their way to higher ground.

According to Indian broadcaster, NDTV, A tsunami of between three to six metres is expected to hit the Nicobar Islands.

A tsunami alert -which is less serious than a warning  – has also been issued for the Eastern coast of India, the Andaman Islands, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said an Indian Ocean wide tsunami alert is in effect.

The quake was felt in Singapore, Thailand and India. High-rise apartments and offices on Malaysia’s west coast shook for at least a minute.

In India, tremors were reported  in Mumbai, Kolkata, and the southern part of Chennai.  The tremors lasted for a few seconds.  In Bhubaneshwar, people were seen running out of their homes and offices.  No damage has been reported so far.

Experts say this earthquake may not cause as much damage as the 2004 Indonesia quake and tsunami that left 250 000 people dead.

By Azhar Vadi – Cii News and Agencies