A string of powerful earthquakes rocked Indonesia yesterday, leaving at least one dead and dozens injured and triggering panic in the country hardest hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami.
Indonesian authorities canceled a tsunami alert issued after the first of several strong quakes early yesterday morning, but by then thousands of people had fled their homes and were thronging roads leading from the coast.
A 7.6-magnitude quake hit before dawn about 150km 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 a procession of smaller quakes, one as strong as magnitude 6.1, later rattled the region, US and Indonesian seismological authorities said.
A 10-year-old girl was killed when a wall collapsed and at least 52 people suffered injuries, 37 of them in Manokwari, an AFP tally of hospital figures showed.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that based on “unofficial” information, four people had been killed in the quake. The figure could not be confirmed by local hospitals.
“There are only two hospitals in Manokwari and we only recorded one killed ... a 10-year old girl,” a doctor identified as Agus at one of the hospitals said.
“Any casualty caused by a disaster must be reported to us first before being handed to the victim’s family,” he said.
West Papua’s police chief Bagus Eko Danto confirmed that there was only one killed in the quake.
“After collecting all information from affected places, we concluded that only one [was] killed, the 10-year old girl,” he said.
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 elsewhere there were reports of flattened houses and damaged buildings.
Minor tsunamis caused by the quakes reached Japan, the country’s meteorological agency said, but there were no reports of damage.