7.6 magnitude earthquake off Indonesia and East Timor

AFP, published Tuesday, January 10, 2023 at 05:50

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck Indonesia and East Timor early Tuesday, injuring at least one person and damaging homes, according to the United States Seismological Institute (USGS).

The epicenter of the earthquake was 427 kilometers south of the Indonesian island of Ambon, 95 kilometers deep, the USGS said.

The Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG) reported that the quake was felt over the eastern islands of Timor, the Maluku Archipelago and Papua. Aftershocks with a magnitude of 5.5 were reported.

“I was in bed when I felt a slight tremor. I got up and found that many of my friends had felt it too,” Hamdi, an Indonesian living in Ambon, told AFP.

According to the Indonesian Civil Protection Agency (BNPB), “one person was injured” and at least 15 houses and two schools were damaged in the Tanimbar Islands.

“People panicked and fled their homes,” said Abdul Muhari of the BNPB.

76 magnitude earthquake off Indonesia and East Timor
The strongest tremor was felt in Saumlaki, the archipelago’s largest town, which is home to 8,000 people, the agency said in a statement, sharing photos of damaged houses in several villages in the southwestern Moluccas.

In one village, the roofs and walls of several houses had collapsed and debris was strewn on the ground.

Videos shared on Twitter showed lampposts flickering in Tual, a port in the Moluccas archipelago, and residents running from buildings.

– “The earth is shaking” –

The Indonesian geophysical agency had issued a tsunami warning, which was lifted shortly thereafter.

The quake was felt as far north as Darwin, where at least 1,000 people reported it to the Australian Geosciences Agency.

“You could hear the earth rumbling,” said a resident of that city at the site of the Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC).

“It was huge! It went on for hours, the whole house was really shaking,” noted another Darwin resident.

Indonesia is subject to frequent seismic activity due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide.

On November 21, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake that struck the populated West Java province on the main island of Java killed 602 people.

On December 26, 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra killed more than 230,000 people in distant Sri Lanka, India and Thailand and caused gigantic waves up to 30 meters high to hit the coast of Banda Aceh in northern Sumatra.