updated 2/13/2008 3:51:37 PM ET 2008-02-13T20:51:37

Indonesia issued a tsunami alert Thursday after a strong earthquake rocked the east of the country.

The country's geophysics agency said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.6, while the U.S. Geological Survey put the initial magnitude at 5.9.

The quake struck about 170 miles southwest of the Maluku island chain at a depth of six miles. It had "the potential to cause a tsunami," Indonesia's geophysics agency said.

It was not immediately clear whether the warning had reached villages possibly in danger in the remote region in the far east of Indonesia.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and Japan's Meteorological Agency did not immediately issue their own tsunami warnings.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago with a population of 235 million people, is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

A magnitude-9 quake off Sumatra's coast in 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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