A powerful 7.
3 magnitude earthquake has rocked the Maluku Islands in eastern Indonesia.
The undersea quake sparked a tsunami warning for areas up to 300 kilometres away, causing panic as people fled their homes.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage after the tremor struck at a depth of 46 kilometres northwest of Kota Ternate, a town in the Malukus, at 0231 GMT (1331 AEDT) on Saturday, the US Geological Survey said.
“Tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300 kilometres,” said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.
The centre said a tsunami could hit parts of Indonesia, as well the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and islands in the South Pacific.
On the tiny Sangihe Islands close to the epicentre, people ran from their homes when the quake hit, Toni Supit, head of the islands’ Sitaro district, told AFP.
“People in coastal areas felt the strong quake, which lasted for quite some time, and they immediately went to the sea to see if the water was receding abnormally, which is a sign of an incoming tsunami,” he said.
People were returning to their homes, he said, but added that local authorities were encouraging people to stay away from beaches until the tsunami warning was lifted.
Tsunami waves between 30 centimetres and one metre could hit parts of Indonesia, said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, while waves below 30 centimetres were forecast for the coasts of the Philippines.
“We have issued an early tsunami warning,” an official from Indonesia’s meteorological agency told AFP.
People in the northern Maluku Islands and in the north of central Sulawesi island were warned to stay away from the coast, said Mochammad Riyadi, head of the earthquake and tsunami department at Indonesia’s weather agency.
Julius Galgiano, a Philippine government seismologist, said the Philippines had also issued a tsunami warning.