7.6 quake damages buildings in Indonesia, felt in Australia

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A powerful deep-sea earthquake damaged village buildings in a lightly populated island chain in eastern Indonesia early Tuesday and was widely felt in northern Australia.

Two school buildings and 124 houses were damaged in Indonesia's Tanimbar islands and Southwest Maluku districts, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said. Only one injury was reported.

“Local residents felt strong tremors for three to five seconds. There was panic when the quake shook so the residents left their houses,” agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said in a statement.

The epicenter of the magnitude 7.6 temblor was in the Banda Sea, nearest the Tanimbar islands, which have about 127,000 residents. The quake was felt in several regions, including Papua and East Nusa Tenggara provinces, as well as in northern Australia.

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency issued a tsunami warning that was lifted three hours later.

“Based on four tide gauge observations around the center of the earthquake, it did not show any significant anomaly or change in sea level,” agency head Dwikorita Karnawati said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered at a depth of 105 kilometers (65 miles) not far from Australia's northern tip. Deeper quakes tend to cause less surface damage but are more widely felt.

More than 1,000 people in northern Australia, including in the city of Darwin, reported to Geoscience Australia that they felt the quake. The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre said the quake didn't pose a tsunami threat to the mainland or any islands or territories.

Australian singer Vassy wrote on Twitter that it was the longest quake she had felt.

“We ran out of the house in the middle of the night. I’ve never experienced earthquake that lasted that long and felt so strong. It was rather scary,” Vassy wrote. “Woke us up in the middle of the night.”

Indonesia is frequently shaken by earthquakes and lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.