Powerful earthquakes rock Indonesia

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The Independent Online

A series of powerful earthquakes have struck Indonesia's remote Papua province, killing up to 22 people, injuring as many as 600 and destroying hundreds of houses.

A series of powerful earthquakes have struck Indonesia's remote Papua province, killing up to 22 people, injuring as many as 600 and destroying hundreds of houses.

The quakes hit hardest in the town of Nabire, damaging the local airport, a bridge, roads and buildings, said Margiono, a seismologist with the Meteorological and Geophysics Agency in the provincial capital, Jayapura.

He said villagers in the area had reported a tsunami, or tidal wave, in the nearby Cendrawasih Bay, but this could not be confirmed.

Police in the region said eight people perished, but the government news agency Antara reported that 22 had died.

Fauzi, a meteorologist in Jakarta, said he expects the numbers to rise.

"The Nabire hospital building was badly damaged and many of the injured reportedly are in tents outside," he said.

The quake also struck the nearby towns of Enarotali and Manokwari.

"People are staying in tents. They don't dare go home. They're still afraid of more quakes," Musa Horen, a municipal official in Manokwari was quoted as telling Jakarta's El-Shinta radio.

The quake damaged around 500 houses in the area but there were no reports of casualties, he said.

Several jolts were felt throughout the region from 7.05pm to 9.30pm GMT yesterday.

The largest, measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale, was centred four miles east of Nabire town and 50 miles deep. It lasted around 30 seconds and was immediately followed by nine aftershocks.

The US Geological Survey, which tracks earthquakes worldwide, estimated the magnitude at 6.8 and said it was six miles deep.

Nabire is situated on the northern coast of Papua, 2,000 miles north east of Jakarta. The province, formerly known as Irian Jaya, occupies the western half of New Guinea island.

An earthquake of magnitude 6 can cause considerable damage if it hits residential areas.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago nation, is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire" - volcanic arcs and oceanic trenches partly encircling the Pacific Basin.



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