Tsunami warning lifted after strong quake hits off Indonesia

Indonesia's disaster agency issued a tsunami warning for coastal communities in Morowali district. The warning was later lifted by the agency. (USGS website)
Updated 12 April 2019
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Tsunami warning lifted after strong quake hits off Indonesia

  • Indonesia's geophysics agency issued a tsunami warning for coastal communities in Morowali district, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage
  • Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide

JAKARTA: A strong 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia Friday, the United States Geological Survey said, triggering a tsunami warning and sending panicked residents fleeing from their homes.
The quake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 17 kilometres (10 miles) off the east coast of Sulawesi island, the USGS said, where a 7.5-magnitude quake-tsunami around the city of Palu killed more than 4,300 people last year.
Indonesia's disaster agency issued a tsunami warning for coastal communities in Morowali district, where residents were advised to move away from the coast.
The warning was later lifted by the agency, which had estimated the wave at under a half a metre (20 inches).
But the USGS warned that considerable damage was possible in poorly built or badly designed structures.
It was not immediately clear how much damage was caused by the quake or if there were any casualties.
Hapsah Abdul Madjid, who lives in Luwuk city in Banggai district, Central Sulawesi, where the tremor was felt strongly, said people fled to higher ground and the electricity was cut, adding that residents panicked as fears soared over an imminent tsunami.
The tremor off the eastern coast of Sulawesi is on the other side of the island from disaster-hit Palu, where residents still felt the quake despite being hundreds of kilometres away.
"I ran straight outside after the earthquake - everything was swaying," 29-year-old Palu resident Mahfuzah told AFP.
Thousands in Palu were still living in makeshift shelters six months after the late September disaster with at least 170,000 residents of the city and surrounding districts displaced and entire neighbourhoods still in ruins, despite life returning to normal in other areas of the tsunami-struck city.
The force of the quake saw entire neighbourhoods levelled by liquefaction - a process where the ground starts behaving like a liquid and swallows up the earth like quicksand.
Apart from the damage to tens of thousands of buildings, the disaster destroyed fishing boats, shops and irrigation systems, robbing residents of their income.
Indonesia has said the damage bill in Palu topped $900 million. The World Bank has offered the country up to $1 billion in loans to get the city back on its feet.
Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.
Last year was a particularly tough one, however, with more than 2,500 disasters ranging from a series of deadly earthquakes to killer landslides and volcanic eruptions.
The sprawling archipelago is dotted with more than 100 volcanoes, including one in the middle of the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands that erupted in late 2018 and unleashed a tsunami that killed more than 400 people.


UK Conservatives to pick final 2 contenders for prime minister

Updated 4 min 34 sec ago
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UK Conservatives to pick final 2 contenders for prime minister

  • Tory lawmakers will vote to eliminate two contenders from a four-strong field
  • All the candidates are vowing to lead Britain out of the European Union, a challenge that defeated outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May

LONDON: Britain’s governing Conservatives were set to pick two candidates Thursday who will square off to become the country’s next prime minister.
Tory lawmakers will vote to eliminate two contenders from a four-strong field that includes ex-foreign minister and London mayor Boris Johnson, current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
Johnson has a commanding lead after three rounds of voting that cut the list from an initial 10 contenders. The three others are battling to join him in a runoff to be decided by 160,000 Conservative Party members nationwide.
All the candidates are vowing to lead Britain out of the European Union, a challenge that defeated outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May. She quit as Conservative leader earlier this month after failing to win Parliament’s backing for her Brexit deal.
The winner of the contest, due to be announced the week of July 22, will become Conservative leader and prime minister.
Many in the party doubt that anyone can beat Johnson, a quick-witted, Latin-spouting extrovert admired for his ability to connect with voters, but mistrusted for his erratic performance, and record of inaccurate and sometimes offensive comments.
Hunt is considered an experienced and competent minister, but unexciting. Gove is the sharpest performer and could come out best in head-to-head debates with Johnson, his longstanding frenemy. The two men led the “leave” campaign Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum, but later fell out.
Javid, the son of Pakistani immigrants, says he offers a common-man alternative to private school-educated rivals like Johnson and Hunt, although he was a highly paid investment banker before entering politics.
Brexit, originally scheduled to take place on March 29, has been postponed twice amid political deadlock in London. The candidates differ on how they plan to end the impasse.
Johnson has won backing from the party’s die-hard Brexiteers by insisting the UK must leave the bloc on the rescheduled date of Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal to smooth the way.
Javid, like Johnson, says he would try to leave the EU without an agreement rather than delay Brexit beyond Oct. 31. Gove and Hunt both say they would seek another postponement if needed to secure a deal, but only for a short time.
Critics say none of the candidates’ plans is realistic.
The EU is adamant that it won’t reopen the Brexit agreement it struck with May’s government, which has been rejected three times by Britain’s Parliament. Many economists and businesses warn that leaving without a deal on divorce terms and future relations would cause economic turmoil as tariffs and other disruptions are imposed on trade between Britain and the EU.
UK Treasury chief Philip Hammond warned Thursday that a no-deal Brexit would put Britain’s prosperity at risk and leave the economy “permanently smaller.”
“The question to the candidates is not ‘What is your plan?’ but ‘What is your plan B?’ Hammond said in extracts from a speech he is giving later in the day.”