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Powerful earthquakes shake Indonesian coast, kill 2 people

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Powerful earthquakes shake Indonesia
  • NEW: More than 400 homes damaged in the quakes
  • Two dead in earthquakes
  • Largest quake was a magnitude 7.0
  • Quakes were clustered within 90 kilometers of each other

(CNN) -- A power string of six earthquakes shook the northern coast of Papua, Indonesia, Wednesday, killing at least two people and causing widespread damage on Yapen Island, officials said.

"We don't know how bad it is yet, but we have received reports that 200 houses on the coast line were damaged and 227 others were in town," according to Papua police spokesman Wachyono, who goes by a single name. The national disaster coordinating agency will be sending a team to assess the situation, he said.

Four of the earthquakes hit the region within an hour's time, starting just after midday. A fifth and sixth quake hit the region a few hours later.

A 6.4 magnitude quake quake struck at 12:06 p.m. local time, followed by a more powerful 7.0 magnitude quake 10 minutes later, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. Within the next 42 minutes, a 5.1 magnitude quake also rattled the region, along with a magnitude 6.2 quake. Weaker quakes of magnitude 4.9 and 4.8 hit the area after 3 p.m.

The epicenters of the earthquakes were clustered within 90 kilometers (56 miles) of each other and some 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of Enarotali, Indonesia.

"People ran out of their houses and headed for higher ground in fear of a tsunami," said Denni Siregar, the police chief of the Yapen Island sector, which lies near the epicenters. "There's no injuries reported yet but at least one house is damaged."

A tsunami watch that was issued by the Indonesian Meteorological Agency was later lifted.

Indonesia is on the so-called Ring of Fire, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

In 2004, a 9.1-magnitude underwater earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, triggering a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in 14 countries.

The tsunami, which washed away entire communities, caused nearly $10 billion in damage and more casualties than any other tsunami in history, according to the United Nations. Indonesia was among the hardest hit nations.

CNN's Andy Saputra contributed to this report.