DHAKA/CHITTAGONG, April 11 (BSS) - An 8.9-magnitude undersea tremor in Indonesia's northern Aceh province and subsequent aftershocks in the region also shook Bangladesh prompting authorities to issue a tsunami alert while officials in coastline districts said preparedness was underway to launch evacuation campaign in a short notice.
Following the alert, the concerned authorities suspended flight operations and all activities at Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong.
The met office in Dhaka issued a "Tsunami Bulletin" saying "A tsunami was likely to affect the coast of Bangladesh at 22.51 BST (10.51 pm) and "for the sake of precaution and safety of the coastal people, the related agencies and are advised to be watchful from 1500 BST up to midnight."
The bulletin came as tsunami alerts or evacuation orders were issued for parts of Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand while disaster management ministry in Dhaka said directives were issued to all district administrations at coastlines to remain prepared to "carry out any order" in the face of possible disasters.
"The disaster management committees at district, upazila and unions are asked to hold emergency meetings to fix strategies to face onslaughts of possible tsunami," a spokesman for the ministry told BSS.
The Armed Forces Division (AFD), which is tasked with responding to disasters, said army, navy and air force installations particularly in Chittagong and Cox's Bazar were asked to get prepared to launch rescue campaigns in line with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's directive.
"Campaigns were already launched to protect the installations and equipment of the three forces while troops were kept ready to rush in aid of people at risks in coastlines in line with a decision of the Disaster Management Cell at the Prime Minister's Office," an AFD spokesman told the news agency.
He said AFD was in constant contact with relevant agencies like the met office and the fire service to face any eventuality in a coordinated manner.
A sense of worry was created among the residents in different parts of the country, especially in the port cities and in the capital Dhaka, following a series of mild tremors.
Officials of the country's seaports of Chittagong and Mongla said orders were issued asking ships and boats to remain in safe shelters while fishing boats in the Bay of Bengal were asked to quickly return to the shore.
"Ships anchored at the port and outer anchorages were reached the warning message and asked to enforce optimum safely measures," secretary of Chittagong Port Syed Farhad Hossain told BSS.
Acting chairman of Mongla Port Abdul Mannan said required steps were taken to ensure safety of the port and the ships around.
"We have asked UNOs (upazila nirbahi officers) to get prepared to launch evacuation campaign at a short notice . . . we are in constant touch with the met office and disaster management department," deputy commissioner of Chittagong Fayez Ahmed said.
Mayor of Chittagong Manjurul Alam said a control room was opened at the city cooperation office.
Red Crescent officials said their volunteers in the coastlines were issuing warning messages using megaphones asking them to be prepared for evacuation on short notice.
Deputy Commissioner of Noakhali M Sirajul Islam said five upazilas of the district were exposed to tsunami risks because of their proximity to the sea.
The British Geological Survey (BGS), however, said the risk of a tsunami being generated by the giant earthquake off Sumatra was "low" as the earthquake's "movement was horizontal, not vertical", and caused no apparent movement of the sea floor, which is what triggers tsunamis, "We've had two blocks rubbing together, it's called a strike-slip earthquake . . . That means there hasn't been any displacement of the sea floor," French news agency AFP quoted a BGS expert as saying.
He said although an earthquake of this magnitude has the potential to cause a large tsunami, the fact that "we haven't seen any drop of the sea floor, which is what generates the wave, it looks like the possibility of a tsunami being generated is low."
The US Geological Survey (USGS) said an 8.6-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra at 2:38 p.m. (0838 GMT) at a depth of 33 kilometers (14.2 miles).