2 Sep 2009

Fatal powerful quake sparks panic in Indonesia

11:05 pm on 2 September 2009

A powerful earthquake rattled Indonesia's main island on Wednesday, killing at least six people and forcing thousands to evacuate.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake measured 7 on the Richter scale and its epicentre was in West Java, about 200km south of the capital Jakarta at a depth of 63km.

The quake shook buildings in the capital and flattened homes in villages near the epicentre of the quake, according to a Reuters report.

The health ministry said it was sending medical teams to Tasikmalaya near the epicentre of the quake.

The quake was felt as far away as Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, about 500km northeast of Tasikmalaya, and on the resort island of Bali, about 700km to the east.

In Jakarta, panicked people fled shopping centres and were evacuated from office towers as buildings began to sway. At least 27 people have been injured.

Financial journalist John Aglionby told CNN he was at a news conference in Jakarta when the quake hit.

"I was in a press conference with the Finance Minister who just happened to be talking about how the global economy was not yet on a firm foundation and suddenly the whole building started swaying."

Mr Aglionby says the timing of the minister's comments was "quite amusing" but the mood quickly became serious as many people began to evacuate from surrounding high rise buildings.

The quake sparked a local tsunami alert, which has since been lifted. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no threat of a destructive widespread tsunami.

In December 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people throughout Asia.