A powerful earthquake of 8.7 magnitude hit Indonesia’s Aceh province Tuesday, triggering a tsunami warning across the Indian Ocean basin.

According to the US Geological Survey, the quake's epicenter was about 20 miles under the sea, about 300 miles off Banda Aceh, the provincial capital.

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a quake of this magnitude has the potential to generate a widespread destructive tsunami. If the powerful quake triggers a tsunami, the giant waves could affect coastlines across the entire Indian Ocean basin.

In 2004 the Indian Ocean Tsunami resulted in the death of over 200,000 people in 14 countries.

It is not known as of now whether a tsunami has been generated. It is reported that people along the west coast of Andaman province should take note of warnings and evacuate urgently. The beaches of the city of Chennai in India, where the 2004 tsunami had wreaked havoc, are already undergoing evacuation.

As many as 28 countries are under Tsunami alert right now. Tsunamis generally consist of a series of waves with enormous destructive power.

A tsunami can be caused by a sudden disruption of the sea floor resulting in the vertical displacement of water. When earthquakes happen beneath the sea, as in the present case, water above the area, which is deformed, will undergo sudden displacement from its equilibrium position.

A quake of magnitude 8.7 is considered lethal and capable of causing massive devastation.