A teacher walks past tiles which fell off the damaged roof of a school building after an earthquake hit the area in Jimbaran, Indonesia on Tuesday. Sonny Tumbelaka/ AFP
The death toll from a powerful earthquake that hit a remote Indonesian island chain at the weekend has climbed to five, with thousands living in evacuation shelters, an official said on Wednesday.
The shallow 7.3-magnitude quake struck about 165 kilometres (100 miles) south of the town of Ternate in North Maluku province on Sunday evening, according to the US Geological Survey.
“Five people died after they were hit by debris,” Agus Wibowo, a spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency, said in a statement.
Nearly 1,000 houses were damaged in the sparsely populated district of South Halmahera, which was closest to the quake’s epicentre, and more than 3,000 people have taken refuge in government buildings and schools over fears of aftershocks.
Local authorities have placed the district under emergency status and have begun establishing public kitchens, as well as distributing aid and tents.
North Maluku was also hit by a 6.9-magnitude tremor earlier this month.
Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where tectonic plates collide.
Last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 people, with another thousand declared missing.
The earthquake occurred at a depth of 10 km (6 miles) at an area 168 km south-southeast of Ternate, the USGS said.
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