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Major Quake Rocks Eastern Indonesia
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A major earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale rocked eastern Indonesia, the US Geological Survey said.


The quake occurred at 1:58 AM (1658 GMT Friday) in the Banda Sea, around 195 kilometers (120 miles) south of Ambon City at a depth of 340 kilometers (220 miles), it said in on its website.


There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.


The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, which monitors seismic events and their tidal wave-generating potential, put out a bulletin following the quake, but said no tsunami was expected.


"A destructive tsunami is not expected from the earthquake," said Stuart Weinstein, the center's assistant director.


"The quake was very deep, its 340 kilometers or roughly 220 miles deep. It's so far under the surface that it's not going to cause enough displacement of the sea floor that it'll generate a tsunami," he added.


Indonesia's Aceh Province was the hardest hit by the 9.3-magnitude quake off the coast of Sumatra that triggered tsunamis on December 26, 2004. The waves killed more than 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean.


An official with the Jakarta meteorological office said it had recorded the quake at 7.3 on the Richter scale.


It was felt in Ambon and the towns of Tual and Saumlaki, also in the Maluku island chain, as well as in Sorong in Papua Province, Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara Province and the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar, all of which encircled the epicenter of the quake, he said.


A local policeman in Ambon, who declined to be identified, said the quake was "felt very strongly in Ambon and caused many people to flee their homes."


"I ran out of the office along with my colleagues," he said, adding that he was not sure if there were any casualties or damage.


The sprawling Indonesian archipelago sits on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.


(Chinadaily.com.cn via agencies, January 28, 2006)


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