2004Edition>News Center>World

Indonesia quake kills 23, more dead feared
Updated: 2004-02-06 20:51

A powerful earthquake rocked Indonesia's eastern province of Papua on Friday, killing at least 23 people in a coastal town and possibly more in other areas, officials said.

Many people were injured in the early morning quake, which measured 6.9 on the Richter scale and destroyed several buildings in the town of Nabire, the officials said.

The national earthquake centre put the epicentre just seven km (four miles) from Nabire, where power to the town's 26,000 residents had yet to be restored as night fell.

The quake closed Nabire's airport and many buildings were destroyed or set ablaze. Residents fearing aftershocks said they had set up tents near their homes to sleep in.

"According to the latest news in the information centre, 23 people died," said Muhamad Son Ani, district police chief in Nabire.

"This is only the report from the city, not counting those outside the city because communication lines are dead," he told Reuters by telephone.

Some media were reporting as many as 29 people killed, but officials in Nabire contacted by Reuters late on Friday said the toll remained at 23.

Son Ani said 62 injured people had been treated and sent home, 30 were in a military hospital and about 60 in a local hospital. Officials in Jakarta said as many as 600 people had been injured.

The local hospital itself had been badly damaged, another official said.

B. Rumbiak, Nabire meteorology station chief, told Reuters earlier by telephone that there had been 11 aftershocks.

"The victims died because of fallen houses and buildings which could not endure earthquakes. And it was quite a heavy quake," said Fauzi, coordinator of the national earthquake centre.


District police chief Son Ani said: "Residents are still afraid and worried that there will be other aftershocks because until now we can still feel the shaking. People are setting up tents outside their houses."

He said the dead included at least four children ranging in age from one month to three years. There were also reports of fires in residential areas.

"A local market is on fire and the fire brigade is struggling to put it out," Son Ani said.

One resident described the situation in the town as tense.

"Until now we can still feel the tremors and smoke is coming out from some houses," the man told Jakarta-based El Shinta radio.

Officials said the quake had damaged some roads in Indonesia's eastern-most province, and Nabire airport had been closed due to a crack in the landing strip.

Rugged but resource-rich Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, is 3,000 km (1,900 miles) east of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

The US Geological Survey's (USGS) National Earthquake Information Center Web site said the earthquake measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, and struck at 6" The quake was felt in Manokwari, about 325 km (200 miles) from Nabire. "The doors shook and lots of stuff fell from the table," said George Leskona at the Manokwari meteorology station.

But he told Reuters by telephone there were no reports of casualties or serious damage in the Manokwari area.

The vast archipelago that makes up Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation, stretches along a geologically active area of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Operations of the giant Grasberg copper and gold mine in Papua, jointly owned by Rio Tinto and Freeport-McMoRan Inc, were unaffected by the quake, although it was felt at the site, a spokesman in Jakarta said.

The mining operation is about 175 km (110 miles) from the earthquake epicentre.

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