Tsunami Warning Called Off After Powerful Indonesian Quake

JAKARTA, Indonesia, July 26, 2007 (ENS) - There is no threat of a widespread tsunami after a severe earthquake of 6.9 magnitude hit eastern Indonesia early Thursday afternoon local time.

The powerful earthquake rocked the eastern part of the island nation, sending residents running from shaking homes and public buildings, officials and witnesses said. There were no immediate damage reports.

The quake, which had a preliminary magnitude of 7, triggered a tsunami warning but the alert was lifted after it became clear no destructive waves had been generated, Indonesia's geophysics agency said.

Location of the Molucca Sea, site of a severe earthquake today and floods and landslides since Sunday.

"No destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data," said the U.S. National Weather Service's Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in a bulletin issued after the quake.

But it said earthquakes of this magnitude "sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a hundred kilometers (62 miles) of the earthquake epicenter."

In coastal Padang, capital of West Sumatra province, many people fled to higher ground, with memories of December 2004's deadly tsunami still fresh in their minds.

Today's quake occurred in the northern Molucca Sea 220 kilometers (135 miles) north of the nearest inhabited island, Ternate, and 2505 kilometers (1560 miles) east-northeast of the country's capital, Jakarta. No casualties have been reported but aftershocks continue to shake the region.

The site of today's quake is just 45 miles from the location of an even more powerful earthequake of magnitude 7.5 that jolted the area in January. Four people were killed during that quake and four others were injured, but no tsunami was generated.

In Jakarta, Vice-President Yusuf Kalla said the government has extended a hand to help the victims. "The National Agency for Disaster Coordination will help the best they can if there's anything needed from Jakarta," he said.

Life in Sulawesi is often disrupted by earthquakes. (Photo courtesy WALHI)
Meanwhile, forest destruction and illegal logging are blamed for floods and landslides since Sunday on Sulawesi Island in the Molucca Sea. At least 80 people are feared dead, the Health Ministry said today, either buried under mud or swept away.

Rustam Pakaya, the head of the Health Ministry's Crisis Management Center, said the floods and landslides have stopped in most affected regions.

But in North Sulawesi the waters still stand in hundreds of houses that once sheltered 15,000 people, Pakaya said.

Sulawesi repeatedly suffers floods and landslides due to deforestation. The saturated soil cannot hold excess waters during heavy rains now that the island's lowland tropical forests have been almost entirely cleared.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.