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Major earthquake hits Indonesia waters; tsunami possible

usgs-shakemap-indonesia-7-3-earthquake
A shakemap of the 7.3-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. USGS

A 7.3-magnitude quake hit Indonesian waters Saturday morning and has the potential to generate tsunami waves along nearby coasts, a monitoring agency said.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake hit 154 kilometers (96 miles) northwest of Kota Ternate at a depth of 47 kilometers (29 miles).

There are no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake could cause hazardous tsunami waves within 300 kilometers (186 miles) of the epicenter along the nearby coasts of Indonesia and the southern Philippines. Waves could reach up to a meter (3.28 feet) or less, it said.

The nearest communities of Tabukan Tengah on North Sulawesi island could be at risk within an hour or so if a tsunami occurs, the agency said.

The waves could also reach as far as Taiwan, Okinawa in southern Japan, the U.S. territory of Guam, Papau New Guinea, Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific within the next six hours, it said.

The world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In 2004, a monster temblor off Aceh shores triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. Most of the deaths were in Aceh.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said no Pacific-wide tsunami waves are expected to be generated by a major earthquake that hit off Indonesia on Saturday morning.

In its 11:50 a.m. advisory, Phivolcs corrected its earlier alert over radio and said “there is no tsunami threat to the Philippines” from the magnitude 7.3 earthquake that occurred in Halmahera, Indonesia.

“Based on forecast wave heights and absence of unusual waves from sea-level data by the Davao tide guage station, there is no Pacific-wide destructive tsunami that is generated by this event,” it said.

Phivolcs research specialist Ric Mancao earlier said in a dzMM report that the alert is based on information from the the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

The US agency said hazardous tsunami waves within 300 kilometers of the epicenter along the nearby coasts of Indonesia and southern Philippines are possible.

Waves could reach up to a meter (3.28 feet) or less, it said.

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