West Papua earthquake causes death, injuries

Two quakes have hit Indonesia's West Papua province, one of which registered 7.6 on the Richter scale. A 10-year-old girl was killed and dozens were injured, triggering panic in the nation hardest hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami.


AFP - A string of powerful earthquakes rattled Indonesia on Sunday, leaving at least one dead and dozens injured, and triggering panic in the nation hardest hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami.

Indonesian authorities cancelled a tsunami alert issued after the first of several strong quakes early Sunday morning, but by then thousands of people had fled their homes and were thronging roads leading from the coast.

A 7.6-magnitude undersea quake hit before dawn about 150 kilometres (100 miles) northwest of Manokwari, the main city in the province of West Papua, which lies on the Pacific Ocean in the far east of Indonesia's island chain.

A 7.5-magnitude aftershock and several smaller quakes, one as strong as magnitude 5.6, later rattled the region, according to US and Indonesian seismological authorities.

One of the main tourist hotels in Manokwari was toppled and at least three people were pulled out of the rubble alive. Electricity in the city was down, and cracks were seen in several buildings in the coastal resort.

Officials said initial reports did not indicate widespread damage, and most of Manokwari appeared to be untroubled by the string of quakes.

But according to an early AFP tally from local hospitals, a 10-year-old girl was killed when a wall collapsed and another 37 people were treated for a variety of light injuries.

"The quake was quite strong and we felt it for about three minutes. The electricity blacked out after the quake," said a policeman in Manokwari who identified himself as Ketut.

"The police and military are working right now to help people get to higher ground."

An employee said Manokwari's Mutiara hotel was toppled by the second of the quakes, which hit around three hours after the first.

"Three hotel guests returned to their room after the first big quake. They failed to evacuate after the second powerful quake struck and got trapped in the hotel rubble," said the staffer, who gave his name as Harun.

"The three have been brought to a nearby hospital. But it's not clear what injuries they suffered."

Memories are still raw of the devastation wrought by the 2004 tsunami, which was set off by a massive undersea quake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The giant waves killed 168,000 in Indonesia's Aceh province and Nias island.

The Indonesian archipelago sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where continental plates meet and cause frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

The Ring of Fire stretches along the western coast of the Americas and through the island nations of the South Pacific and on through Southeast Asia.

Japanese authorities issued a warning that small tsunami waves up to 50 centimetres (1.5 feet) could reach the Pacific coasts of some islands, triggered by the series of quakes, but officials said no damage was expected.

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