Three killed as earthquakes rock Indonesia

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A series of powerful earthquakes rattled Indonesia today, killing at least three people, triggering landslides and demolishing dozens of homes.

The 7.0-magnitude quake was centred 18 miles beneath the ocean floor and 125 miles off the northern coast of Papua province, the US Geological Survey said.

It was accompanied by a series of strong aftershocks, the highest measuring 6.4, and a tsunami warning sent panicked residents fleeing buildings to high ground.

More than 20 houses collapsed in Serui, a town in Yapen district, sparking fires in at least seven places, said a police spokesman. Two bodies were pulled from the rubble.

"Police and rescuers are still searching for other victims in remote areas," the spokesman added.

Hundreds of people ran out of their homes, said Yan Pieter Yarangga, a resident from the town of Biak. Fearing a tsunami, people fled beaches and some raced for high ground. "I ran too, I was afraid there would be a second quake," he said.

The tsunami warning was later lifted.

Earlier in the day, a 5.3-magnitude quake on Sulawesi island, nearly 1,200 miles to the west, triggered landslides that badly damaged at least 50 homes, killing one person, the official Antara news agency reported. Others were injured, but it was not immediately clear how many.

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that make the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity. A giant quake off the country's coast on December 26, 2004 triggered the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh.