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Quake causes panic in Indonesia's Sulawesi - radio
Updated: 2005-02-19 10:12

A powerful earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia's Sulawesi region on Saturday morning, sparking panic in seaside communities as residents fled their homes for higher ground, leading news radio station El Shinta reported.

It quoted the Meteorological and Geophysical Agency as saying the earthquake measured 6.9 on the Richter scale, large enough to cause casualties and damage, although there were no immediate reports of any deaths.

The tremor was near the island of Buton and struck at around 8.00 a.m. (7 p.m. EST), the radio said.

In one part of Buton island, women and children wept as they fled to an old palace on a nearby hill, it said.

The official Antara news agency quoted a geophysical official who said the earthquake measured 6.0 on the Richter scale. That official, speaking in the South Sulawesi capital Makassar, said sea water levels had risen although there were no reports of tsunamis.

The U.S. Geological Survey Web site said the earthquake was measured initially at a magnitude of 6.5.

The tremor follows a massive earthquake of magnitude 9.0 off Indonesia's Sumatra island on Dec. 26 that triggered huge tsunami waves that left widespread devastation and are feared to have killed as many as 300,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

That quake has spawned hundreds of aftershocks.

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