Strong Quake Rocks Eastern Indonesia

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JAKARTA, Indonesia - Four earthquakes struck the northern coast of Indonesia on Wednesday, killing at least three people and sending residents fleeing from their buildings in panic.

Weaker fifth and sixth quakes hit within another few hours. There were power blackouts in some areas, fires and collapsed buildings, said a police spokesperson from the city of Papua, near where the quakes struck. 

The first quake, measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale, struck around noon. Ten minutes later, a 7.0 magnitude quake struck.

It was centered 18 miles beneath the ocean floor off the northern coast of Papua province, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on its website.

Within about 40 minutes, two more quakes hit, with 5.1 and 6.2 magnitude respectively. After 3:00 p.m., 4.9 and 4.8 magnitude quakes hit the region.

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 higher ground.

"I ran too, I was afraid there would be a second quake," said Yarangga.

The Meteorology and Geophysics Agency warned that the 7.1 quake could trigger a tsunami, but it did not.

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines, called the Ring of Fire, that make the island nation vulnerable to volcanic and seismic activity.

A giant quake on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered the tsunami that killed 230,000 people, half in province of Aceh.

Wednesday's quakes struck more than 2,000 miles from Jakarta.

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AP contributed to this report.

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