An earthquake of magnitude 6.7 near Indonesia shook people in the Northern Territory, but authorities say there is no tsunami threat to Australia.
Geoscience Australia confirmed earthquake tremors near the Banda Sea off Indonesia were felt at Darwin on Wednesday morning.
The earthquake occurred around 9:00 am in Indonesia, with an epicenter of 180 km depth and no immediate incidents were reported. The Indonesian disaster agency said the residents of the southwest of the Moluccas range also felt the earthquake.
The epicenter was 630 km northwest of Darwin, but meteorologist Chris Kent, who is based in the city, said the earthquake lasted several minutes.
Local Andy Chandler was on a ladder in her kitchen at Coconut Grove doing a little pre-Christmas cleaning when she felt the trembling. “The pots and pans started to slam and the whole house and everything started to shake,” she told the local radio ABC.
Singer Darwinian Bev Luke said she watched the Christmas decorations “make a dance” in her home, while Celeste Green said she felt the earth moving under her feet. “My whole building shook for about five seconds, as long as my pictures fell off the wall,” said Green.
The Territory of Northern Territory of Australia said that the earthquake was widely felt through Darwin and its surroundings.
Angela Pattison said Howard Springs was “rock and rolling” with trembling. “The fish tank was a-sloshing and the cabinets were a-rattling and my chair made the four-legged jive!” She says.
Other Territorians felt it as far as the Tiwi Islands, Yirrkala in the Land of East Arnhem and Katherine.
Dan Jaksa, senior seismologist at Geoscience Australia, said that earthquakes occur regularly in the Banda Sea, which are often felt in the Top End. “Over the past 20 years, there have been over 140 on the scale six in the region,” he said.
Jaksa said that seismic wave tremors travel more easily on the Australian tectonic plate than the Indonesian.
“Most of the motion is on our plate. It probably felt less in the immediate area where the epicenter is than in Darwin,” he said.
The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center has ruled out a tsunami threat.
Jaksa said that earthquakes at this depth do not produce damaging surface waves because the fault is less likely to break the seabed.
The Banda Sea lies on the ring of fire, an area where tectonic plates collide that is known for volcanic eruptions and about 90% of earthquakes in the world. Indonesia is experiencing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
Earthquakes are rare in Australia because the country is not on an immediate boundary of the tectonic plate, but Jaksa said “never say never”.
“The biggest earthquakes that have occurred are in the Northern Territory,” he said.
The largest earthquake in Australia was 6.6 in Tennant Creek in 1988, followed by a 6.5 quake in western Australia Meckering in 1968. The third largest was again In the Territory, when an earthquake of magnitude 6.4 shook the Simpson Desert in 1941.