At least 20 dead after strong quake rocks eastern Indonesia, Latest World News - The New Paper

At least 20 dead after strong quake rocks eastern Indonesia

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AMBON CITY, INDONESIA: At least 20 people died and more than a 100 were injured after an earthquake struck Indonesia's remote Maluku islands yesterday, destroying homes and triggering landslides.

Terrified residents ran into the streets as buildings fell in around them after the 6.5-magnitude quake hit at around 8.45am local time (9.45am, Singapore time).

People in Ambon, a city of about 400,000 people, were seen helping injured residents in blood-stained clothes, while images showed wrecked homes with collapsed walls and rubble strewn on the ground.

Some patients fled a local hospital as the quake hit, prompting officials to set up makeshift shelters outside the building, an official said.

"The impact was felt across Ambon city and surrounding areas," said Mr Rahmat Triyono, head of the earthquake and tsunami division at Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG). "It felt like a truck was passing by."

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck about 37km north-east of Ambon in Maluku province at a depth of 29km.

The area was hit by at least two dozen aftershocks including one that measured 5.6 magnitude, Mr Triyono said.

An AFP reporter in Ambon described scenes of panic as people fled their houses when the quake struck.

Architect Suryanto Soekarno said a construction site where he and his employees were working was rocked by the tremor.

"It was a really hard shock," he said.

"Filing cabinets fell over and my employees ran away to save themselves. Some were injured but thank God only with minor wounds."

Local BMKG head Oral Sem Wilar called for calm.

"People were panicking and started to evacuate in some places, but we are trying to tell them there's no need to panic because there's no tsunami threat," he said.

In August, five people died and several were injured after a powerful undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's heavily populated Java island.

Last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island left more than 4,300 people dead or missing. - AFP