Indonesia lifts tsunami warning after powerful quake off Java

Ganis Bungsu

Indonesian authorities lifted a tsunami warning late Friday after a powerful earthquake earlier struck off the southern coast of heavily populated Java island.

The 6.9 magnitude quake registered at a depth 52.8 kilometres (33 miles), some 150 kilometres (90 miles) 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 and at a shallower depth before raising its intensity.

Indonesia's disaster agency pegged the quake at magnitude 7.4 and warned it could spark a tsunami as high as three metres (10 feet). 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.

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."

- Buildings swayed -

Residents in Jakarta fled their homes as buildings in the megacity swayed from the force of the quake, which struck at 7:03 pm (1203 GMT).

"The chandelier in my apartment was shaking and I just ran from the 19th floor," 50-year-old Elisa told AFP.

"Everybody else ran too. It was a really strong jolt and I was very scared."

At least five 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 last month.

Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide.

Lombok, next to holiday hotspot Bali, was rocked by earthquakes last summer that killed more than 500 and sparked a mass exodus of foreigners from the tropical paradise.

Also last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 people, with another thousand declared missing.

On December 26, 2004, a devastating 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.