Powerful quake rocks Indonesia.
A powerful earthquake struck in an area off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, leaving at least four people dead and causing several buildings to collapse.
The 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the coastal town of Gorontalo early on Monday, and was followed by a magnitude 5.8 aftershock, triggering a tsunami warning.
The alert was lifted shortly afterward, but that did little to avert a period of widespread panic, witnesses said.
"Some residents saw an abnormal sea level as high as two metres. They thought that a tsunami would strike in a matter of minutes," Nasir Maroto, a council member in Buol district of Central Sulawesi told the AFP news agency.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake struck 136km off Gorontalo at a relatively shallow depth, making it a potentially tsunami-causing tremor.
US officials issued a tsunami warning for an area within 1,000km of the epicentre, but the Indonesian tsunami alert was lifted shortly after being issued.
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) had warned that the earthquake had "the potential to generate a destructive regional tsunami along coasts located within a thousand kilometres of the earthquake epicentre".
Coastal evacuationSpeaking to Al Jazeera, the PTWC spokesman Stuart Weinstein said: "This is a much smaller earthquake than the Sumatra earthquake of December 2004, it is not going to be anything remotely like that."The Indonesian state-run Antara news agency said thousands of people fled their homes and hotel rooms in Gorontalo when the earthquake struck at 17:02 GMT.The 2004 Asian tsunami killed nearly a quarter of a million people, most of them in Indonesia's Aceh region. That disaster led to pressure for better tidal warning systems in the region.
Indonesia launched a new hi-tech system on Tuesday, aimed at detecting tidal waves and providing faster alerts. The $130m system is able to detect an earthquake at sea and predict within five minutes whether it could cause a tsunami.Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, said at the launch that Indonesia was "living on the edge"."Three tectonic plates - the Eurasian, Indo-Australian and Pacific meet here. This kind of disaster can strike at any time," he said.
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