Earthquake shakes eastern Indonesia, damage being evaluated

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A strong inland earthquake struck eastern Indonesia on Thursday, causing people to flee to higher ground in panic. There was no immediate report of major damage or casualties.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.5 quake was centered 37 kilometers (23 miles) northeast of Ambon, the capital of Maluku province at a depth of 29 kilometers (18 miles).

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Rahmat Triyono, the head of Indonesia’s earthquake and tsunami center, said the inland earthquake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, but witnesses told television stations that panicked people along coastal areas ran to higher ground anyway.

The national disaster mitigation agency said authorities are still gathering information about damage or injuries in affected areas.

Indonesia, home to nearly 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions due to its location along the Pacific “Ring of Fire.” A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed a total of 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.