JAKARTA, Indonesia – A powerful earthquake rocked western Indonesia before dawn Thursday, jolting people from their sleep and sending them fleeing by car and foot. Authorities briefly issued a tsunami warning, but the feared wave never came.
The 7.1-magnitude quake struck 85 miles west of Bengkulu, a coastal town off Sumatra island, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It hit 18 miles beneath the ocean floor.
Residents in Bengkulu — still nervous following a series of powerful quakes that struck the region last month — fled their homes, el-Shinta radio reported. Some jumped into cars or onto motorcycles.
Suhardjono, a senior official at Indonesia's Meteorological and Geophysics Agency told el-Shinta the 4 a.m. quake was part of a series of aftershocks that have rattled the region since Sept. 12, when an 8.4-magnitude killed 23 people and destroyed thousands of buildings.
Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago with a population of 235 million people, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
A magnitude-9 earthquake that hit off the coast of Sumatra on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries, more than two-thirds of them in Indonesia.
The Japan Meteorological Agency warned after Thursday's quake that there was a small chance it could trigger a destructive, local tsunami. Indonesian authorities lifted the tsunami warning after the threat had passed.