At least 20 killed, over 12,000 take shelter as strong quake hits eastern Indonesia

At least 20 killed, over 12,000 take shelter as strong quake hits eastern Indonesia

Agency News

Jakarta, Sep 26 : At least 20 people were killed and more than 50 others wounded as a 6.5 magnitude quake struck off Indonesia's eastern Maluku province earlier on Thursday, a senior disaster official said.

More than 12,000 people fled home as the jolts triggered panic and damaged two university buildings, two hospitals, one bridge and over 100 houses, head of operation unit of the disaster management agency of the province Farida Salampessy revealed.

"The death toll could rise as the data from some other quake impacted-areas have not reached," she told Xinhua via phone. One hospital was seriously damaged by the jolts and could not operate, forcing the authorities to evacuate all the patients, while another hospital was also destroyed, Farida said.

"Consequently, we have to set up some field health clinics to provide medical treatment to the patients," she said. The official said that some other posts were also established to accommodate the needs of the evacuees.

Some communities were afraid of the possibility of tsunami and were forced to evacuate to higher grounds, according to her. "There are some villages where all people leave for fear of tsunami after the quake, the villages are empty now," she added.

In addition, Farida said, they took shelter because their houses were rattled by the tremors. "Our main focus now is to serve the evacuees, providing logistics, medicine and shelters," she said.

Risk assessment of the disaster has been under way in the province, the official said. Most of the victims were hit by falling blocks of concrete and parts of buildings damaged by landslides, which were triggered by the jolts, secretary of national disaster management agency in Ambon, capital of the province Eva Tuhumuri told Xinhua.

The quake rocked at 0646 hrs (local time), with the epicenter about 40 km northeast of Ambon and a depth of 10 km, Ali Imron, official in charge at the meteorology and geophysics agency told Xinhua via phone.

An aftershock of 5.6 magnitude followed the main shock at 0739 hrs (local time), he said. Indonesia is vulnerable to earthquakes as it lies on a quake-impacted zone called the "Pacific Ring of Fire." (UNI)