Earthquake spurs panic in Indonesia

/ Source: The Associated Press

A powerful earthquake rocked parts of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia on Saturday, causing panic among residents but no immediate reports of injury or damage.

The quake struck at 8:04 a.m. and was centered about 40 miles west of the town of Bau Bau in southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia’s meteorological agency said. The agency put the magnitude at 6.9, while the U.S. Geological Survey said it had a 6.5 magnitude. The cause for the discrepancy wasn’t immediately clear.

There were no reports of a tsunami. But both organizations said the quake had the potential to generate such a sea wave, though nothing on the order of the tsunami launched by a 9.0-quake Dec. 26 in northwestern Indonesia that killed tens of thousands of people across southern Asian and eastern Africa.

Saturday’s quake was felt in Indonesia’s tsunami-devastated region, about 2,000 miles to the west. Gregory Beals, spokesman for the International Rescue Committee in Banda Aceh, told The Associated Press that he was awakened by the quake and his building shook for 10 to 15 seconds.

In Kendari, the capital of Southeast Sulawesi province, local resident Yuli Mochtar said the quake caused hundreds of people to run out into the streets.

“We felt the quake and we just ran out of the house in panic,” Mochtar said. “But we have not seen any damage yet.”

Residents of Bau Bau said there were no reports of any casualties or damage.

A quake measuring magnitude 6 can cause widespread damage if it hits populated areas.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” — a series of volcanoes and fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

The country has at least 129 active volcanoes, and earthquakes and tremors are frequent.