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Powerful Earthquake Hits Indonesia, At Least 70 Dead


A powerful earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra killing at least 70 people and destroying hundreds of buildings. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

Indonesia's Sumatra island was struck by the earthquake, a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter scale, on Tuesday morning. Around two hours later, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck the same area again.

The tremors killed dozens of people, and sent hundreds to hospital with broken bones, cuts and scrapes, local officials say. The powerful quake was felt hundreds of kilometers away in Singapore, where several buildings were evacuated, and on the west coast of Malaysia. Neither country reported any damage.

In the West Sumatran capital of Padang, near the quake's epicenter, many buildings were damaged.

Hasrul Piliang, spokesman from the governor's office in Padang, says people in the seaside capital immediately panicked and began running to higher ground fearing a tsunami. He says the mayor and government workers went to the streets with loudspeakers to explain that the earthquake's epicenter was on land, not sea, making a tsunami unlikely.

Padang is one of several Indonesian cities where a tsunami warning system is in place.

In the town of Solok, around 63 kilometers north of Padang, government spokesman Hasrul says many people have been killed and injured by the quake. He says hundreds of homes, schools, and businesses have been toppled.

In December 2004 a powerful 9.0 earthquake off Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed over 230,000 people in a dozen Indian Ocean countries, including over 160,000 in Indonesia's Aceh province.

Last July a magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck off the south coast of Java triggering a tsunami that killed more than 650 people.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because it is situated along constantly shifting fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin known as the Ring of Fire.

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