A 7.3-magnitude earthquake rattled buildings in northeastern Indonesia Sunday, causing panicked residents to flee homes, churches and shopping malls in fear of a tsunami that never came, officials and witnesses said.
A woman died after suffering a heart attack, apparently triggered by the shock of the powerful quake, and four residents in Sulawesi island’s regional capital Manado were hospitalized with injuries, one after jumping from the fourth floor of a building.
The U.S. Geological Survey put the earthquake’s strength at 7.3 and the Indonesian seismological institute issued a tsunami alert via local television and radio.
The temblor struck six miles beneath the Molucca Sea and was centered 80 miles northwest of the Maluku capital of Ternate and 1,400 miles northeast of Jakarta, the USGS said.
Some buildings suffered cracks and damage. Fears of a tsunami sent hundreds of people running inland to higher ground or racing off in cars and on motorcycles, causing massive traffic jams, witnesses said.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
In December 2004, a massive earthquake struck off Indonesia’s Sumatra island and triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 lives — 131,000 people in Indonesia’s Aceh province alone. A tsunami off Java island last year killed nearly 5,000.