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Powerful Earthquake Hits Indonesia - 2004-02-06

A powerful earthquake has hit the remote northern shores of the Indonesian province of Papua. Initial reports say at least 22 people have died and hundreds more have been injured. But the number of dead is expected to rise.

The earthquake measured 6.9 on the Richter Scale and hit early Friday morning near the town of Nabire, on the north coast of Papua Province. Most of the dead were killed when their homes collapsed. Initial reports say the town's hospital and airport were badly damaged by the quake.

Officials say the quake had disrupted transport and telecommunications. They expect the death and injury tolls to rise as rescue teams move out into surrounding districts.

Residents are reportedly staying out of their houses, fearing more aftershocks would bring down the weakened structures.

Many of the injured are being treated in tents because the damaged hospital is unsafe.

The Red Cross has sent a team to the area to assess the damage.

The island of Papua is no stranger to earthquakes. A temblor measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale hit the eastern end of the island in July 1998. It caused a massive tsunami. Which killed more than 3,000 people and left 6,000 homeless.

Rescue attempts are being hampered by the remote location. All supplies need to be airlifted but how much can be airlifted will depend on how bad the damage is at the local airport.