6.5-magnitude quake hits eastern Indonesia, no tsunami alert

JAKARTA (AFP) - A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Indonesian islands on Friday, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), but no tsunami alert was issued.  

The undersea quake, at a depth of 38km, struck the Molucca Sea between Sulawesi and the Maluku chain of islands. “The quake was felt strongly for five seconds, causing people to run from their homes,” the National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said. Officials said there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the quake.

The quake was initially measured at 6.9-magnitude and 48km in depth but was later revised by the USGS to 6.5 in strength and 10 kilometres shallower than earlier reported.

In West Halmahera, an area close to the epicentre, panicked people took refuge to higher grounds for fear a tsunami might hit, a local disaster management official told AFP.

A 7.3-magnitude quake struck in the same area last weekend, prompting authorities to issue a tsunami alert, although it only generated small waves.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where continental plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.  A huge undersea quake in 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed more than 170,000 people in Aceh province, on western Sumatra island, and tens of thousands more in other countries with coasts on the Indian Ocean.

A 6.1-magnitude quake that hit inland in Aceh in July last year left at least 30 people dead and thousands homeless. It caused a mosque to collapse in one village, killing six children as they took part in a Quran reading session.