- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 16, 2010

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A series of powerful earthquakes rattled Indonesia on Wednesday, killing at least three people, triggering landslides and demolishing dozens of homes. A tsunami warning sent panicked residents fleeing buildings to high ground.

The 7.0 magnitude quake was centered 18 miles beneath the ocean floor and 125 miles off the northern coast of Papua province, the U.S. Geological Survey said on its website. It was accompanied by a series of strong aftershocks, the highest measuring 6.4.

More than 20 houses collapsed in Serui, a town in Yapen district, sparking fires in at least seven places, said police spokesman Lt. Col. Wachjono, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. Two bodies were pulled from beneath the rubble.

“Police and rescuers are still searching for other victims in remote areas,” he said.

Hundreds of people ran out of their homes, said Yan Pieter Yarangga, a resident from the town of Biak. Fearing a tsunami, people fled beaches and some raced for high ground. “I ran too, I was afraid there would be a second quake,” he said.

The tsunami warning was later lifted.

When the electricity was cut, some women and children screamed in terror, said Sgt. Junaidi, a local police official, who also goes by one name. “Many were crying, they were so afraid.”

Earlier in the day, a magnitude-5.3 quake on Sulawesi island, nearly 1,200 miles to the west, triggered landslides that badly damaged at least 50 homes, killing one person, the official Antara news agency reported. Others were injured, but it was not immediately clear how many.

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that make the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity. A giant quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh.

The quake that hit Wednesday was located more than 2,000 miles from the country’s capital, Jakarta.

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