06/17/2010, 00.00
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Nine villages and almost 2,000 homes destroyed in Papua quake

by Mathias Hariyadi
Seven churches, a power station and an elementary school are also razed. The region is very poor with limited communications. The exact number of victims is still unknown.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – At least nine villages in South Yapen District were destroyed in yesterday’s devastating earthquake. The tremor, which measured 7.1 on the Richter scale, hit Biak Island, north of Papua Province. The latest report today indicates that at least 1,835 homes were razed to the ground.

Emergency relief chief Sumpeno Yuwono said that the affected region includes the villages of Aiyari, Randawaya, Hamtimoi, Karowaiti, Waita, Waridoni, Tare, Larelahiti, and Wabudayar. The area, which has a population of about 70,000, is currently isolated from the rest of the province. Seven churches, a power station and an elementary school have also been destroyed, he said.

Despite its mineral riches (oil, gas, lumber and gold), Papua is one of Indonesia’s poorest provinces. It is underequipped in terms of basic infrastructures like roads, bridges and hospitals. All this has complicated the rescue effort. Road travel and communications are difficult.

Light planes and choppers are the most effective means of transportation for both people and materiel.  Today, police and army choppers were able to deliver instant food to the worst hit areas.

Yesterday’s huge tremor was also felt in Central Sulawesi where earlier a man was reported killed in a previous moderate quake that hit the area.

According to Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, a geologist with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), yesterday’s quake in Papua and the one earlier in Central Sulawesi are commonplace.

Indonesia, Papua and other eastern regions of Indonesia, including Sulawesi and the Maluku Islands, are “prone” to earthquakes because of Indonesia’s location along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”.

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