At least two people have been found dead and hundreds were evacuated after a major 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit the remote Maluku islands in eastern Indonesia on Sunday, an official said, as the government declared a seven-day emergency response period.
The shallow quake struck about 166 kilometres (103 miles) southeast of the town of Ternate the capital of North Maluku province at 6.28 pm (0928 GMT), at a depth of just 10 kilometres (six miles). Shallow quakes can cause more damage.
In South Halmahera district, the closest area to the epicentre, around 160 houses collapsed when the shallow earthquake struck. A woman was confirmed dead in the disaster.
"The victim was hit by the debris when her house collapsed," local disaster mitigation agency official Ihksan Subur told AFP on Monday, adding no other casualties have been reported.
"The aftershocks still happen very frequently so people are still traumatised and don't dare to return home just yet," Subur said.
National disaster agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said two women were killed by collapsing houses and more than 2,000 people have fled to temporary shelters. The quake was followed by at least 65 smaller aftershocks.
However, the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency has a more conservative estimate of around 52 aftershocks recorded after the initial quake.
Authorities said there was no tsunami risk from the quake, but many people ran to higher ground anyway. TV footage showed people screaming while running out of a shopping mall in Ternate. The hardest-hit areas, Sofifi and Labuha, only can be accessed by a 10-hour boat trip from Ternate or by small plane, Wibowo said.
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The agency is still assessing the level of destruction but said two bridges and about 58 homes in one village alone, Saketa, were damaged. Hundreds of people are still sheltering in several schools, government buildings, and higher grounds. Local government officials have started to distribute logistics and food for the evacuees.
U.S. Geological Survey: Earthquake of magnitude 7.3 occurred at Halmahera, Indonesia at 09:10 (local time), today.
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Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide. With a population of around 1 million, North Maluku is one of Indonesia's least populous provinces.
North Maluku province was also hit by a 6.9-magnitude tremor last week but no extensive damage or casualties were reported.
Last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 people, with another thousand declared missing.
On 26 December, 2004, a devastating 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.
Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions due to its location along the Pacific "Ring of Fire." A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed a total of 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.
With inputs from agencies.
Updated Date: Jul 15, 2019 14:41:45 IST