(From Reuters)

A massive and shallow earthquake struck on Wednesday off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, a region devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean quake and tsunami, and there were early reports of deaths.

A tsunami alert was called off, TV said. Neighboring Australia issued a tsunami watch for parts of its western coast and then canceled it.

“There are some who have died,” said Heronimus Guru, the deputy head of operations with the National Search and Rescue Agency. He did not know how many, but any rescue operation will be hampered by the dark, which falls early in the tropical archipelago.

There were no immediate reports of damage, but the shallower a quake, the more dangerous it is. The U.S. Geological Survey originally put the magnitude at 8.2, and then 8.1, before lowering it to 7.9.

The epicenter was 808 km (502 miles) southwest of Padang, USGS said. It was 10 km (six miles) deep.

“So far there have been no reports (of damage),” Andi Eka Sakya, an official of the National Meteorological Agency, told TVOne. “In Bengkulu (on the southwestern coast of Sumatra) they didn’t feel it at all.”

President Joko Widodo was staying overnight at a hotel in Medan in North Sumatra and was safe, palace officials said. A Medan resident said he did not feel the quake.

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