JAKARTA, Indonesia (UPDATED) – At least one person has been found dead and hundreds were evacuated after a major 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit the remote Maluku islands in eastern Indonesia on Sunday, July 14, an official said.
The shallow quake struck about 165 kilometers (100 miles) south-southwest of the town of Ternate in North Maluku province at 6:28 pm (0928 GMT), according to the US Geological Survey.
In South Halmahera district, the closest area to the epicenter, around 160 houses collapsed when the shallow earthquake struck. A woman was confirmed dead in the disaster.
"The victim was hit by the debris when her house collapsed," local disaster mitigation agency official Ihksan Subur told AFP Monday, adding no other casualties have been reported.
Hundreds of people are still sheltering in several schools, government buildings and higher grounds.
"The aftershocks still happen very frequently so people are still traumatised and don't dare to return home just yet," Subur said.
Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said until Monday morning, July 15, at least 52 aftershocks have been recorded after the initial quake.
Local government officials have started to distribute logistics and food for the evacuees.
In the town of Labuha, one of the closest to the epicentre, panicked residents took to motorcycles in a bid to flee to higher ground, according to an Agence France-Presse photographer in town when the earthquake hit.
Local disaster official Ihsan Subur told Metro TV that no damage or casualties had been reported there so far, but residents took to the streets and many evacuated to higher ground.
"Electricity went of during the earthquake, but now it's back to normal," Subur said, adding that at least seven big aftershocks were felt after the initial quake.
The province was also hit by a magnitude 6.9 tremor last week.
Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide.
Last year, a magnitude 7.5 quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 people, with another thousand declared missing.
On December 26, 2004, a devastating 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia. – Rappler.com