Indonesian quake kills three (Second lead)

November 17th, 2008 - 2:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, Nov 17 (DPA) A powerful undersea earthquake that struck off Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province early Monday killed at least three people, injured nearly 40 and damaged more than 1,500 buildings, officials said.The quake struck at 1.02 a.m. (1702 GMT Sunday) and measured 7.7 on the Richter scale.

Its epicentre was located about 138 km north-west of Gorontalo on North Sulawesi, about 1,900 km
north-east of Jakarta. It occurred about 10 km beneath the seabed.

The US Geological Survey recorded the quake at 7.5 on the Richter scale.

Indonesia’s National Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) briefly issued a tsunami warning, but the alert was canceled after no tidal waves materialized, an official said.

A series of aftershocks followed the powerful quake, with the highest measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, sparking further panic among residents and preventing them from returning to their homes.

Thousands of residents in Gorontalo, Palu and other regions remained outdoors hours after the quake. They were staying in the hills for fear of tidal waves despite the lifting of the official
tsunami warning.

“The residents had fled to available hills around their houses since the first earthquake happened,” the state-run Antara news agency quoted Risan Dewanto, the coordinator of disaster management in northern Gorontalo district, as saying. He added three people were injured after being hit by debris.

At least two people were killed in the Buol district of central Sulawesi province, and 23 others were injured by falling debris, district spokesman Syamsuddin Mangge was quoted as
saying by online news service.

Provincial spokesman Fed Abbas said in a telephone interview earlier that at least 1,500 homes were either collapsed or damaged by the quake in the province with 400 homes flattened.

Antara reported more than 20,000 residents fled their homes in Buol and nearby areas, following the powerful quake.

Rustam Pakaya, head of the Indonesian health ministry’s crisis centre, said one person died and 14 people sustained injuries in northern Gorontalo
district after a building collapsed.

Hotel guests and residents in Gorontalo city also abandoned buildings and fled to higher ground to escape possible tidal waves.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the edge of a tectonic plate prone to seismic upheaval.

The country launched a new high-tech system early last week aimed at detecting potential tsunamis and providing faster alerts in a region battered by frequent earthquakes.

A major earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck in December 2004, leaving more than 170,000 people dead or missing in Indonesia’s Aceh province and around 500,000 homeless.

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