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Powerful Earthquake Kills 75 in Indonesia, Traps Thousands

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Indonesian officials say a powerful earthquake that struck off the coast of Sumatra has killed at least 75 people and trapped thousands under debris and rubble. The underwater earthquake rocked western Indonesia Wednesday, briefly triggering fears of another tsunami for countries around the Indian Ocean.

The 7.6 earthquake occurred near the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra. Shock waves were felt in neighboring Singapore and Malaysia. A tsunami alert was initially issued for the region but hours later it was called off. The earthquake occurred one day after an 8.0 earthquake triggered a Tsunami that struck the Pacific island of Samoa.

Randy Baldwin a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Center says the two events were not related.

"There is quite a bit of distance separating the two different quakes, there is no relationship," he said. "It's just a very active region all the way around the perimeter of the Pacific Ocean."

He says the quake originated 50 kilometers northwest of of the city of Padang in southern Sumatra. The area is along the same fault line that spawned the massive 2004 India Ocean tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people.

Local media is reporting that hundreds of houses collapsed in Padang. Buildings have been damaged in the area. Some neighborhood have lost electricity and telecommunications. One news channel also reported incidents of people panicking and running in the streets.

One local resident who experienced the quake in the central Sumatra province of Jambi says people there did not panic.

He says they often get earthquakes in Sumatra, so they know what to do.

The Padang airport has been closed. Indonesian search and rescue teams are heading to the affected areas.