A series of powerful earthquakes off the northern coast of West Papua, Indonesia, early on Sunday killed four people, injured several others and flattened buildings, officials and local television said.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said a magnitude 7.6 quake occurred some 150 km (95 miles) northeast of Manokwari in the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea, at a depth of 35 km (21.7 miles). An official at Indonesia's meteorology agency said there were several quakes in the area during the night.
"Hotel Mutiara and tens of houses are flattened to the ground," Pitsau Amafnini, an eyewitness, told Reuters.
Manokwari, with a population of about 161,000, is in a remote, sparsely-populated part of Papua which attracts tourists thanks to its diving sites, wildlife including birds of paradise, and spectacular scenery.
The quake triggered a small tsunami that hit the Japanese coast but there was no damage, Japan's Meteorological Agency said. The Indonesian authorities also issued a tsunami warning for Papua, but lifted it shortly afterwards.
"Ring of fire"
Indonesia is located in an area of intense seismic activity known as the "Pacific Ring of Fire" and frequently experiences quakes and tsunami warnings.
A 9.15 magnitude earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004 triggered a massive tsunami, killing about 230,000 people in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and other countries around the Indian ocean.
Priyadi Kardono, spokesman for the disaster management centre, said that the health ministry had confirmed four deaths from the quakes, while several buildings were damaged. Metro TV reported that six people had been hospitalised.
"Two hotels collapsed, Mutiara Hotel and Kali Dingin Hotel. Two bank buildings, a storage of (national logistics agency) Bulog, and the official house of the head of the regency were also damaged," Kardono said.
"There were no casualties from Kali Dingin Hotel and three trapped victims inside the Mutiara Hotel have been rescued," he said, adding that about a thousand people had gathered at certain locations in the town seeking shelter.
A spokesman for Australian disaster relief agency Emergency Management Australia told Reuters that the quakes were felt in Papua New Guinea, and in the northern Australian city of Darwin, but there were as yet no reports of major damage or injuries.
PNG generally calls on Australia for help when major natural disasters occur.
"It was certainly felt but as far as we understand there is no report of damage or injury or people hurt. That is our information so far," the spokesman said.
Last Mod: 04 Ocak 2009, 12:16