7.3-magnitude earthquake leaves at least four dead on Indonesia's Sulawesi island

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Indonesia, Nov 17, 2008 - A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake (as measured by the US Geological Survey, 7.5-magnitude according to media reports) struck off the coast of Minahasa on Indonesia's Sulawesi island at 01:02 local time (17:02 UTC) Monday (November 17), leaving at least four people dead. The temblor sent thousands of residents fleeing to higher ground. The epicenter was 84 miles (136 km) northwest of the provincial capital of Gorontalo, in Gorontalo province in northern Sulawesi, and around 1,170 miles (1,890 km) ENE of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta. Indonesia briefly issued a tsunami warning which was lifted later. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center also initially warned that the quake had the potential to generate a destructive tsunami along coasts within 600 miles (966 km), the Associated Press reported. According to Reuters news agency, an official at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said that the agency also issued a tsunami alert that was lifted after officials determined that it would not affect the country's southern coast. The quake also injured around 77 people and toppled hundreds of houses, according to preliminary reports. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), officials in Buol district, located around 373 miles (600 km) north of Central Sulawesi's capital, Palu, said that at least three people died in the area and that around 700 houses had been destroyed. Another person was killed in Kwadang village in Gorontalo province, AFP reported an Indonesian crisis center official as saying. A series of aftershocks have hit the same area, but none with a magnitude over 6.0, according to AFP. The Indonesian archipelago sits on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," where seismic and volcanic activity are frequent.