Powerful quake hits off Indonesia, rattles islands
The earthquake damaged houses in the Tanimbar islands in Maluku © Handout / BNPB/AFP

A 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit deep under the ocean off Indonesia and East Timor early Tuesday, injuring at least one person after rattling nearby islands, damaging homes and forcing residents to flee in panic.

The epicentre of the quake was 427 kilometres (265 miles) south of the Indonesian island of Ambon at a depth of 95 kilometres, the US Geological Survey reported.

Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said the tremor was felt on the eastern islands of Timor, the Maluku archipelago and Papua. It reported some aftershocks at a magnitude of 5.5.

"I was in bed, then I felt a little shake. I woke up and found out that many of my friends felt it too," Hamdi, an Indonesian in Ambon, told AFP.

The country's disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said at least 15 homes and two schools had been damaged in the Tanimbar Islands.

The strongest jolt was felt in Saumlaki, the archipelago's biggest town with a population of 8,000 people, it said.

"For casualties, the local disaster agency reported one person was injured. The jolt was felt strongly (in Tanimbar) between three to five seconds," BNPB spokesperson Abdul Muhari said in a statement Tuesday.

"People were panicking and fled their homes."

Pictures shared by the agency showed damage to homes in several villages in Southwest Maluku Regency.

In one village, the roofs and walls of several damaged houses had collapsed. Debris and household items were scattered on the ground.

The quake caused light poles to sway and sent residents running out of buildings and onto streets in Tual, a port in the Maluku archipelago, videos posted by users on Twitter showed.

The Indonesian geophysics agency warned about a potential tsunami initially, and then lifted the warning.

'Earth rumbling'

The quake was felt as far as Darwin, capital of Australia's Northern Territory, where at least 1,000 people reported it to the Australian Geoscience agency.

"Sustained vigorous shaking here in #Darwin just now from what looks to be a pretty serious #earthquake to our north," user @OreboundImages tweeted.

"Could hear the earth rumbling," another Darwin resident posted on the EMSC website.

"Was huge! Went on for ages, whole house was really shaking," still another Darwin resident noted.

Video posted by Twitter users in Darwin showed water in glasses and pitchers sloshing from side to side.

Indonesia experiences frequent seismic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide.

On November 21, a 5.6-magnitude quake hit the populous West Java province on the main island of Java, killing 602 people.

A major earthquake off Sumatra on December 26, 2004, set off an Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people as far away as Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

That powerful 9.1-magnitude quake triggered 100-foot waves that hit the shore of Banda Aceh on Sumatra.

© 2023 AFP