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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 February, 2005, 11:03 GMT
Quake causes panic in Indonesia
A powerful offshore earthquake has struck Indonesia's eastern Sulawesi region, sparking panic in seaside communities.

The tremor was of magnitude 6.5, the US Geological Survey said - compared with 9.0 for the earthquake which triggered the Indian Ocean tsunami.

No injuries have been reported, but officials say sea levels rose by up to four metres (13ft).

Sulawesi was untouched by the devastating tsunami on 26 December.

However, it was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.2 in January, which claimed one life.

Jakarta's El Shinta radio said people had fled their homes in the town of Bau Bau, south-east Sulawesi, in panic on Saturday, fearing another sea surge.

Details unclear

But officials told the station that there was no possibility of a tsunami from this tremor, which lasted two minutes and was centred about 70km (45 miles) offshore to the west of Bau Bau.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Jakarta says precise details of the earthquake are still unclear.

The US Geological Survey said the tremor just after 0800 (0000 GMT) was 10km (six miles) beneath the sea bed.

But local meteorological official Budi Sulistiono told the Associated Press news agency the earthquake had been 37km (23 miles) under the sea of Flores.

There are no reports of casualties or damage at this stage, our correspondent says, but clearly it has sparked a lot of panic.

An official on the small island of Buton, near Sulawesi, told the BBC the tremor had caused initial panic in the local market, where people on motorbikes fled towards the hills fearing another tsunami.

The government is likely to come under more pressure to introduce a tsunami early warning system like the one in the Pacific Ocean, our correspondent adds.

Locals fear the quake will cause another tsunami

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