People gather outdoors at Batu Merah village in Ambon, Indonesia's Maluku islands, following a 6.5-magnitude earthquake on September 26, 2019. - A strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake hit off the remote Maluku islands in eastern Indonesia on September 26, US seismologists said, but no tsunami warning was issued. (Photo by YUSNITA / AFP)
A magnitude 6.5 earthquake rocked the Maluku archipelago on Thursday morning. It was followed by dozens of aftershocks triggering panic among residents, who fled to the heights.

At least 20 people have died in Indonesia after a powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake rocked the Maluku archipelago in the east of the country on Thursday (September 26th), and reported moderate property damage, authorities said. At least 100 people were injured and 2,000 evacuated, according to the authorities. The quake damaged many buildings, including a university, and caused a landslide, said the local disaster management agency.

The magnitude 6.5 earthquake by the US Geophysical Institute (USGS), whose epicenter was detected 37 kilometers northeast of Ambon, in the Maluku province, occurred at 8:00 am 46 local time (1 h 46 Thursday, Paris time). It was followed by dozens of aftershocks triggering panic among residents, who fled to the heights.

“The impact was felt through Ambon and the surrounding area,” said Rahmat Triyono, an official with the Meteorological, Climate and Geophysical Agency (BMKG). “It looked like a truck passing by a house, the hanging lights started to swing . 

Images of Ambon, a city of some 400,000 people, show slabs of wall, rubble and cracks on buildings. “I slept with my family when all of a sudden the house started to shake,” said an AFP correspondent in Ambon. “The earthquake was really very powerful. We fled outside and we saw our neighbors doing the same thing. Everyone was panicking. “

BMKG local manager Oral Sem Wilar called for calm. “People have panicked and started evacuating some localities, but we are telling them that there is no reason to panic because there is no tsunami warning,” he said. to AFP.

“Many people feared a tsunami and so took refuge high up. Most of the houses here are on the beach, “ said Clementine Mataheru, a resident of Hunud village on the outskirts of Ambon.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands and islets that was formed by the convergence of three large tectonic plates (Indo-Pacific, Australian, Eurasian), is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of ​​strong seismic activity. The archipelago also has more than 100 active volcanoes.

Last year, at the end of September, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake followed by a tsunami on the island of Celebes devastated the Palu region and left more than 4,300 dead and missing. The 2004 tsunami, which killed 220,000 people in the Indian Ocean region (170,000 in Indonesia), was triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.