July 17, 2006

Quake shakes Indonesia’s Java, at least 5 dead

By Muklis Ali

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A strong undersea earthquake struck off
Indonesia's West Java province on Monday, triggering a tsunami
that Indonesia's president said killed at least five people.

The search for victims was continuing, President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono told a news conference.

"An earthquake has happened and then was followed by a
tsunami on the southern coast of Ciamis (regency)," he said.

"It has been reported to me that five people have been
declared dead and the search is still going on to find those
who probably have been swept away by the tsunami waves."

A woman who said she was a witness told Jakarta-based Radio
Elshinta that waves had come several hundred meters inland at
Pangandaran Beach around 270 kilometers (168 miles) southeast
of Jakarta, and she had seen three bodies.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center had said the quake,
which hit at 0819 GMT, was of 7.2 magnitude.

Indonesia's state meteorology and geophysics agency
initially rated the quake at 5.5 magnitude, but later changed
that to 6.8, and said there were two significant aftershocks.

Some occupants of high-rise Jakarta buildings felt the
quake, which had an epicenter more than 40 kilometers under the
Indian Ocean 180 km off Pangandaran beach, and fled their

The other nearest populated area is Australia's Christmas
Island where police reported a 60 cm (two-foot) surge. There
were no reports of damage.

Earthquakes are frequent in Indonesia, the world's fourth
most populous country. A massive earthquake in December 2004
triggered a tsunami that left 170,000 people killed or missing
in Aceh province. Tens of thousands more died elsewhere, the
majority in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

In May, an earthquake near the central Java city of
Yogyakarta killed more than 5,700 people.

Indonesia's 17,000 islands sprawl along a belt of intense
volcanic and seismic activity, part of what is called the
"Pacific Ring of Fire."

The state oil company's 348,000 barrel-per-day (bpd)
Cilacap refinery was not affected by the quake and tsunami, a
Pertamina official said.

"The refinery is operating as usual. There were rising
waves, but now the water has receded," the official said.

(With additional reporting by Achmad Sukarsono and Diyan