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Indonesia downgrades quake

JAKARTA – An undersea earthquake struck near Indonesia’s Moluccas islands on Tuesday, but officials said its strength was moderate and there was no risk of a tsunami.

There were no reports of any casualties or damage.

“The tsunami warning has been canceled. The epicenter of the quake was 33 km (21 miles) in the sea with a magnitude of 5.4 on the Richter scale,” Subagio, an official at the state meteorological agency, said. Earlier, the agency had pegged the magnitude at 6.4. The quake was centered southwest of Tual island under the Banda Sea, due east of East Timor and north of Darwin in northern Australia, the agency said.

“People went out of their homes and some are still standing outside their homes. The quake was not very strong but people are afraid that there will be a tsunami,” Ahmad Bugis, an official at state oil firm Pertamina in Tual, told Reuters.

Indonesia, which lies in the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” has been on edge since a tsunami struck the southern coast of Java island last month killing more than 600 people.It was the second tsunami to hit the country in less than two years.

On December 26, 2004 a devastating tsunami left up to 232,000 people dead or missing in a dozen Indian Ocean nations, including nearly 170,000 in Indonesia’s Aceh province.