Earthquake shakes eastern Indonesia, damage being evaluated

JAKARTA: A strong earthquake in eastern Indonesia cracked a bridge and a university building Thursday, while aftershocks sent people streaming outdoors as further damage was being assessed.

The magnitude 6.5 quake was centred 37 kilometres (23 miles) northeast of Ambon, the capital of Maluku province, at a depth of 29 kilometres (18 miles), the US Geological Survey said.

Rahmat Triyono, the head of Indonesia’s earthquake and tsunami centre, said the inland earthquake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, but witnesses told television stations that people along coastal areas ran to higher ground in fear one might occur.

Television footage showed hundreds of people gathered outdoors as aftershocks rocked the Maluku island chain where the quake was mostly strongly felt.

“The temblor was so strong, causing us poured into the streets,” said Musa, an Ambon resident who uses a single name. He said there were no damages or injuries in his neighbourhood, but he said people on social media chatted about damage elsewhere in the city.

The national disaster mitigation agency said authorities are still gathering information about damage and injuries at several affected areas. It said the quake had caused cracks in a main bridge in Ambon, and pictures released by the agency showed minor damage at Pattimura University in the city.

Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions due to its location along the “Ring of Fire,” the string of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean.

A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.