20 killed as earthquake strikes Indonesia (2nd Lead)

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Jakarta, Sep 26 (IANS) 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 on Thursday, officials 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, said Farida Salampessy, head of operation unit of the disaster management agency of the province.

The earthquake occurred at 6.46 a.m. (local time) on Thursday, with the epicenter about 40 km from Ambon, the capital of Maluku province. It was followed by an aftershock of 5.6 magnitude at 7.39 a.m. (local time).

“The death toll could rise as the data from some other quake impacted-areas have not reached,” Salampessy told Xinhua news agency via phone. Two hospitals were damaged by the jolts.

“Consequently, we had to set up some field health clinics to provide medical treatment to the patients,” the official said, adding 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 evacuated to higher grounds. “Our main focus now is to serve the evacuees, providing logistics, medicine and shelters,” Salampessy 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, said Eva Tuhumuri, Secretary of national disaster management agency in Ambon, capital of the province.

Indonesia is vulnerable to earthquakes as it lies on a quake-impacted zone called the “Pacific Ring of Fire”.

–IANS

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