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Strong quakes jolt Indonesia, Japan

Powerful earthquakes rattled northeastern Indonesia and northern Japan on Thursday, triggering tsunami alerts.
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

Powerful earthquakes rattled northeastern Indonesia and northern Japan on Thursday, triggering brief tsunami alerts.

The Indonesia quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 and struck 55 miles beneath the Molucca Sea, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Indonesia's seismological agency said it had a magnitude of 7.6 and struck at about 7 a.m. local time. The agency immediately issued a tsunami alert over the radio and television, which it later canceled.

In Japan, the country's meteorological agency reported a magnitude 7 earthquake hit Thursday morning off the eastern coast of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. Authorities say there are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

However, a warning was issued for a 20-inch tsunami tsunami along the eastern coast of Hokkaido and the northeastern coast of Japan's main island of Honshu. The warning was later lifted after a 4-inch tsunami rolled ashore.

Residents in Manado, Indonesia, a city on Sulawesi island about 180 miles from the epicenter, fled their homes as the earth rumbled beneath them.

"We haven't reported any casualties or damage yet," said Jimmy Rimba Rogi, the city's mayor, adding that people along the coast, well prepared for tsunamis, also ran inland. "But we're still monitoring."

The warning was later lifted.

Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

In December 2004, a massive earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island triggered a tsunami that battered much of the Indian Ocean coastline and killed more than 230,000 people — 131,000 of them in Indonesia's Aceh province alone.

A tsunami off Java island last year killed nearly 5,000.