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Indonesian earthquake death toll climbs to 17

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • 13 died when truck plunged off cliff during earthquake, official says
  • More than 2,500 homes damaged in last week's series of quakes
  • Largest quake was a magnitude 7.0
  • Quakes were clustered within 90 kilometers of each other

(CNN) -- The death toll from a powerful string of earthquakes that shook Indonesia's Papua province last week has climbed to 17, a government official said Monday.

"Most of the deaths occurred when a truck carrying 13 people plunged off a cliff because of the earthquake," said Priyadi Kardono, head of Indonesia's national disaster management agency. "There are 2,556 houses badly damaged. We have a team there and aid has already started to be flown in."

At least six earthquakes struck the region during a several-hour period Wednesday afternoon. Four quakes rattled the region within an hour's time. The largest was a magnitude 7.0.

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," Denni Siregar, the police chief of the Yapen Island sector, said shortly after the quakes.

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.