Indonesia lifts tsunami warning after strong earthquake

Authorities lift tsunami warning hours after urging residents to ‘evacuate to higher ground’ following powerful tremor.

People gather outside an office building following an earthquake hit in Jakarta
Indonesia is situated on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, which is frequently hit by earthquakes and sometimes accompanying tsunamis [Antara Foto/Dwi Prasetya/via Reuters]

Indonesia‘s geophysics agency has lifted a tsunami warning after a strong earthquake earlier struck off the islands of Sumatra and Java.

The 6.9 magnitude quake struck offshore on Friday at a depth of 42 kilometres, some 150km from Labuan, southwest of the capital Jakarta, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). 

Panicked residents fled their homes as the quake hit, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Images from affected areas showed the walls of buildings cracked by the force of the quake, with bricks and other debris strewn on the ground. 

The USGS initially put the quake’s magnitude at 6.8 before raising its intensity.

Indonesia’s disaster agency pegged the quake at magnitude 7.4 and warned it could spark a tsunami. It called on residents on the Banten coast to “immediately evacuate to higher ground”.

The warning was lifted around three hours later.

“The early tsunami warning has ended,” the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency said in a brief statement.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, but strong tremors were felt in the capital, Jakarta, prompting people to run from office buildings.

Fear among locals

The quake could also be felt in other cities such as Yogyakarta on Java island.

“It was so scary,” said Gustiani Pratiwi, who was carrying two children near an apartment block in Jakarta when she felt the quake strongly.

A volcano-sparked tsunami struck the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra islands, in December, killing over 400 people.

“When the quake hit I immediately ran outside with my family,” said Desi Nirmala, 28, who lives in Pandeglang district on the southwest edge of Java, close to the quake’s epicentre and a region hit by the late 2018 tsunami.

“We’re still traumatised by last year’s tsunami.”

Frequent earthquakes

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

At least two people were killed and thousands were forced from their homes after a major 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit the remote Maluku islands in eastern Indonesia this month.

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 island, killing thousands, while a crater collapse at the Anak Krakatau volcano triggered a tsunami that killed at least 430 people in an area near the latest quake.

At Carita beach in Banten, which was affected by the Anak Krakatau quake, a resident described the alarm in the area.

“We are panicking a lot,” the resident, Sandi, told Metro TV by telephone.

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