A military vehicle patrols after an earthquake in Iquique, Chile, on April 1, 2014. Picture: Cristian Viveros

Jakarta -

Indonesia warned on Wednesday that it could be hit by a small tsunami generated by an 8.2-magnitude earthquake that struck off Chile's Pacific coast, and told residents to stay away from beaches.

Tsunami waves up to half a metre “will possibly affect several areas in Indonesia” from early on Thursday, said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The quake struck late on Tuesday, sending tsunami waves of more than two metres crashing into Chile's northern coast. At least five people have been killed, panicked crowds have fled and some northern areas of the country have been declared a disaster zone.

Nugroho said that the first tsunami waves could arrive at around 5am on Thursday (22h00 GMT on Wednesday) in the eastern region of Papua, and that authorities in 19 provinces of Indonesia - which is thousands of kilometres away from where the quake struck - had been alerted.

“We are urging the provincial and district governments within these areas to take precautions by urging people to stay away from beaches,” he said in a statement.

Other areas that could be affected by the tsunami include parts of the main island of Java, the resort island of Bali, central Sulawesi island, and the Indonesian part of Borneo island, he said.

“People must remain calm,” he said, adding that no one had so far been evacuated.

Indonesia is frequently hit by earthquakes and is home to scores of active volcanoes, as it sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.

More than 170 000 people were killed in Aceh province on western Sumatra island in 2004 when it was hit by a huge quake-triggered tsunami.

The tsunami also killed thousands in other countries around the Indian Ocean. - Sapa-AFP