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Indonesian earthquake shakes Darwin

AAP logoAAP 21/12/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

A magnitude 6.7 earthquake near Indonesia has shaken people in the Northern Territory, but authorities say there's no tsunami threat to Australia.

Geoscience Australia has confirmed tremors from the quake near the Banda Sea off Indonesia were felt in Darwin on Wednesday morning.

The quake occurred around 9am local Indonesian time with an epicentre 180km deep, and there were no immediate reports of damage.

The epicentre was 630km north west of Darwin, but local Andy Chandler was on a ladder in her kitchen in Coconut Grove doing some pre-Christmas cleaning when she felt the tremor.

"Pots and pans started rattling and the whole house and everything started shaking," she told ABC local radio.

Fellow Darwinian Bev Luke said she watched the Christmas decorations "do a dance" in her home, while Celeste Green said she felt the earth move under her feet.

"My whole building just shook for about five seconds, so much that my pictures fell off the wall," Ms Green said.

Angela Pattison said Howard Springs was "rocking and rolling" with the tremor.

"The fish tank was a-sloshing and the cabinets were a-rattling and my chair was doing the four-legged jive!" she said.

Other Territorians have felt it as far away as the Tiwi Islands, Yirrkala in Eastern Arnhem Land and in Katherine.

Dan Jaksa, senior seismologist at Geoscience Australia, says earthquakes happen regularly in the Banda Sea, which are often felt in the Top End.

"In the past 20 years there's been more than 140 over magnitude six in the region," he told AAP.

Mr Jaksa said the shaking from the seismic waves travels more readily on the Australian tectonic plate than the Indonesian one.

"Most of the motion is on our plate. It was probably felt less in the immediate region where the epicentre is than it was in Darwin," he said.

The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre has ruled out a tsunami threat.

Mr Jaksa said earthquakes at this depth don't produce damaging surface waves because the fault is less likely to rupture the seafloor.

The Banda Sea lies on the Ring of Fire, an area known for volcanic eruptions and about 90 per cent of the world's earthquakes.

Earthquakes are rare Down Under because Australia doesn't lie on an immediate tectonic plate boundary, but Mr Jaksa says "never say never."

"The biggest earthquakes that have occurred are in the Northern Territory," he said.

Australia's largest quake was a 6.6 magnitude in Tennant Creek in 1988, followed by a 6.5 tremor in WA's Meckering in 1968.

The third-biggest was again in the Territory, when a 6.4 magnitude quake rattled the Simpson Desert in 1941.

WHAT TO DO IN AN EARTHQUAKE:

* Drop: get onto the floor.

* Cover: hide underneath furniture.

* Hold: stay until the shaking stops.

* Go: outside, at least 5 metres away from any buildings

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