Earthquakes Lay Waste To Manokwari, Kill Four

The Jakarta Post - A series of powerful earthquakes rocked Manokwari, the capital of West Papua, on Sunday, killing four people, injuring dozens and destroying hundreds of buildings.

One 7.3-magnitude tremor was felt as far away as Australia and sent small tsunamis into Japan's southeastern coast, the Associated Press reported.

The first quake, magnitude 7.6, struck at 4:43 a.m. local time about 135 kilometers from Manokwari at a depth of 35 kilometers, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Dozens of aftershocks followed.

At least four people died in Papua, where the runway of the airport nearest the epicenter was split by the force, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters.

"I've instructed emergency steps be taken to help our brothers and to restore power and other vital utilities," Yudhoyono said.

Among the dead was a 10-year-old girl, identified as Yolanda Mandofi, whose head was crushed, said local hospital director Hengky Tewu.

"Our ambulances are picking up two more," he said.

Another 19 patients at the hospital were treated for broken bones, cuts, crush wounds and other injuries.

Papua police chief Maj. Gen. Bagus Ekodanto said he had received reports that a hotel and a rice warehouse had been "destroyed", but he did not know if anyone had been killed in the incidences. A search for victims was under way.

Several stories of the Mutiara Hotel in the main city Manokwari collapsed, said Ina, a nurse at a navy hospital, adding that she had already treated 20 quake victims. The quakes also reportedly damaged the Kalidingin hotel.

Electricity was cut off to the coastal city of population 167,000, where people fled their homes in the dark fearing a tsunami, said Hasim Rumatiga, a local health official.

The quakes forced thousands of people to take refuge, including in military fields in the city, said Manokwari Military Commander Col. Inf. Irham Waroiham.

About 1,000 residents had taken shelter in a military field, 500 in a navy field, 500 in the yard of the Manokwari regent office and 7,000 others in Masni district, which lies just outside of Manokwari city.

The Meteorology and Geophysics Agency had issued a tsunami alert, but it was revoked within an hour after it was determined the epicenter of the main quake had been within the mainland.

Quakes centered well within the mainland do not pose the threat of a tsunami to Indonesia, but can still spread large waves to neighboring countries, such as Japan.

Japan's Meteorological Agency said tsunamis 10 to 40 centimeters in height swept into towns along the coast.

The quakes were also felt in Sorong regency. The regency police spokesman Snr. Comr. Agus Rianto told The Jakarta Post the quakes had damaged 18 houses, injuring 11 residents.

The latest quakes in Manokwari occurred on Oct. 10, 2002, the largest recorded at magnitude 7.6, killing three people. Another strong quake hit in 1996, triggering enormous waves that hammered into the north coastal area of Papua, as well as Sorong, Biak and Manokwari.

Nethy Dharma Somba and Angel Flashy contributed to this article from Jayapura, Papua