Tsunami warning issued after powerful earthquake strikes Indonesia

Jakarta: A powerful magnitude-7.1 earthquake has struck in the Molucca Sea between the Indonesian provinces of North Sulawesi and North Maluku and a tsunami warning has been issued.

The earthquake struck at 11.17pm (3.17am AEDT), according to the US Geological Survey, and while initially the earthquake was judged to have struck at a depth of around 10km, this was soon revised down to a depth of 73km.

Typically, the shallower the depth of an earthquake, the greater risk there is of a potentially powerful tsunami being generated.

The earthquake struck at an approximately equidistant point of around 150 kilometres between North Sulawesi and North Maluku provinces, out in the Molucca Sea.

The BMKG, the Indonesian government agency that monitors earthquakes, issued a warning for a possible tsunami within an hour of the earthquake having struck.

The warning specified a potential wave of zero to 0.5 metres, which could potentially cause serious damage but which is on the smaller end of the scale of tsunamis.

Vidoes are circulating on social media of locals in the two provinces evacuating their homes and other buildings. Reports of damage to buildings are limited so far.

The BMKG's chief in Ternate, North Maluku, Hermizal – who uses just the one name – told Metro TV that at this early stage, no significant change in sea water levels had been detected.

A resident of the city of Tondano, in North Sulawesi province, told Metro TV she had never felt such a strong earthquake before.

Indonesia is situated on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, which is frequently hit by earthquakes and sometimes accompanying tsunamis.

The most devastating in recent Indonesian history was on December 26 in 2004, when a magnitude-9.5 quake triggered a massive tsunami that killed around 226,000 people along the shorelines of the Indian Ocean, including more than 126,000 in Indonesia.

Last year, a tsunami hit the city of Palu in Sulawesi, killing thousands of people and devastating the city.

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