Series of powerful quakes kills 4 in Indonesia

papua-zalzalah

By ALI KOTARUMALOS, Associated Press Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia – A series of powerful earthquakes shook remote eastern Indonesia on Sunday, toppling or badly damaging more than 100 buildings and leaving at least four people dead and dozens injured.

One of the quakes — a 7.3-magnitude tremor — was felt as far away as Australia and sent small tsunamis into Japan’s southeastern coast.

The first 7.6-magnitude quake struck at 4:43 a.m. local time (1943 GMT) about 85 miles (135 kilometers) from Manokwari, the main city in Papua province, at a depth of 22 miles (35 kilometers), the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was followed by dozens of aftershocks.

At least four people died in Papua, and the airport runway nearest the epicenter was cracked, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters.

Panicked residents in Manokwari fled their homes in the dark fearing a tsunami, said Hasim Rumatiga, a local health official. The Indonesian Meteorology and Seismology Agency issued a tsunami alert, but it was revoked within an hour after it was determined the epicenter of the main quake was on land.

A huge quake off western Indonesia caused the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed about 230,000 people.

Quakes centered onshore pose little tsunami threat to Indonesia itself, but those close to the coast can churn up large waves that sometimes reach the coastlines of other countries like Japan.

Power lines fell, cutting off electricity in and around Manokwari, and commercial flights to the area were canceled. The National Disaster Coordination Agency said 135 houses and buildings were badly damaged or collapsed.

“I’ve instructed emergency steps be taken to help our brothers and to restore power and other vital utilities,” Yudhoyono said.

Papua police chief Maj. Gen. Bagus Ekodanto said he received reports that a hotel and rice warehouse had been “destroyed,” but he did not know if anyone had died. A search for possible victims was under way.

“My son’s head was wounded when a cabinet fell on him,” said Ferry Dau, a father of two who said the walls in his house were cracked. “It was very strong and scary. The power and phones went dead after the utility lines fell down.”

Japan’s Meteorological Agency said tsunamis between 4 inches (10 centimeters) and 16 inches (40 centimeters) high splashed ashore in towns along the coast. It also warned that bigger tsunamis were possible later.

Dave Jepsen, a seismologist at the government earthquake monitoring agency Geoscience Australia, said the quake was felt in the northern city of Darwin, 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) southwest of the quake. There was no damage, he said.

Relief agency World Vision Indonesia was flying in 2,000 emergency provision kits, including canned food, blankets and basic medical supplies, said spokeswoman Katarina Hardono.

Papua is the Indonesian portion of New Guinea island, located about 1,830 miles (2,955 kilometers) east of the capital Jakarta. It is among the nation’s least developed areas, and a low-level insurgency has simmered in the resource-rich region for years. It is off limits to foreign reporters.

Indonesia straddles a chain of fault lines and volcanoes known as the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and is prone to seismic activity.

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