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Earthquake hits Indonesia

Indonesians fled Jakarta office towers, shopping centers and apartment buildings in a panic Wednesday afternoon after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of West Java, killing at least 15 people, according to the country's disaster mitigation agency. Several aftershocks, including one measuring 5.4 magnitude, were felt hours later.

The quake, though underwater and more than 100 miles away from Jakarta, shook the entire city for almost a minute causing mass hysteria around the central business district. As office workers streamed out of buildings, traffic came to a standstill along the main Jakarta thoroughfare.

No major damage was reported in Jakarta though local media reported that hundreds of small houses collapsed in several rural areas south of the city. The casualties were reported mostly in Cianjur, Sukabumi and Tasikmalaya, all towns near Java’s south coast.

Jakarta is often rattled by the region’s hyperactive tectonic shifts, but Wednesday’s felt, for many, to be larger than normal. A tsunami warning was issued but lifted 15 minutes later.

Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, which straddle the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a region where three tectonic plates merge causing continuous seismic activity, is regularly struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tidal waves.