Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 struck this morning in Indonesia, but a possible tsunami warning was immediately recalled despite the extent of the shock. The quake developed deep underground at dawn and forced the inhabitants of the south-east of the Moluccas to pour into the streets in panic. However, at present there are no reports of injuries or significant damage to buildings. There have been repeated aftershocks, including a second - though less powerful - magnitude 5 earthquake that affected the islands of Maluku Tenggara.
The first earthquake struck the Indonesian archipelago at 1.53 am local time (23:53 on 10 December in Jakarta), while the second followed a few hours later, around 5:47. The Indonesian geophysics agency has announced that the epicenter of the earthquake was located about 180 km north-west of Saumlaki, the capital of the archipelago of the Tanimbar Islands, which consists of 65 islands.
Suhardjono, head of the earthquakes and tsunami agency alertsaid that "so far we have not received reports of damages of any kind."
Although Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, Maluku Tenggara (also known by the name of Malut) is an overwhelmingly Catholic area. It is prone to devastating earthquakes, because it rests on a surface located at the juncture of three different plates: the Pacific, Indo-Australian and Eurasian.
The Indonesian archipelago is made up of thousands of islands and atolls surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, in an area better known to scientists as the "Ring of Fire". It is characterized by intense volcanic and land-based activity, caused by the collision of several continental plates. In people's memory the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the region in December 2004 is still vivid, which caused hundreds of thousands of deaths across Asia. On 30 October 2009, another strong earthquake struck the area of Padang causing around 700 deaths. More than 180 homes were razed.