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Quake hits Indonesia’s West Papua, four dead

A series of quakes off the northern coast of West Papua, Indonesia, early on Sunday killed four people, injured several others, and flattened several buildings, officials and local television said.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said a magnitude 7.6 quake occurred some 150 km northeast of Manokwari in the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea, at a depth of 35 km. 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.

Rescue teams were still looking for people trapped under buildings, while hundreds of people had gathered at a football stadium seeking medical aid for minor injuries, Elshinta radio reported.

However, an important BP-led liquefied natural gas (LNG) project close to the area was not affected, a BP spokesman 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.

Predominantly Christian Papua, which occupies the western half of New Guinea island, has fewer than 3 million inhabitants out of Indonesia’s total population of 226 million.

Several different tribes, some animist, live in this part of Indonesia, which was under Dutch rule until 1963 and which, despite its vast natural resources, tropical forests, and mineral wealth, remains one of the poorest and least developed parts of the country.

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.


Indonesia is located in an area of intense seismic activity 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. Metro TV reported that six people had been hospitalised.

Kardono said buildings had been damaged and power supplies cut in the area. Hotel Mutiara in Manokwari was damaged, with one of the three buildings in the complex flattened, he said.

The BP-led Tangguh LNG project is near the area affected by the quakes.

“There is no significant impact, only a crack in the office building. The work continues,” BP spokesman Nico Kanter said, adding that employees at the Tangguh operations had felt the tremblors.

BP’s Tangguh project includes an operating site in Bintuni Bay, which is about 100 km south of Manokwari, as well as offices in Babo, Sorong, Manokwari, Bintuni and Fak Fak, according to its website.

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.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , | Leave a comment