Strong, shallow earthquake hits eastern Indonesia

A strong, shallow earthquake hit eastern Indonesia early Monday, sending residents, hotels guests and patients from a hospital fleeing in panic. Some homes were damaged, with windows shattered and walls cracked, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-6.2 quake struck the southeastern tip of Sulawesi island.

It was centered 45 miles (75 kilometers) from the town of Kendari, just 6 miles (9 kilometers) beneath the earth's crust. The shallower a quake is, the more damage it can cause.

Three strong aftershocks followed.

"Women and children were screaming as they ran from their homes and into nearby fields," said Lt. Laode Surachman, a police officer in Kendari, adding that hotels emptied out and patients in a hospital were evacuated to safety. "Even officers taking part in morning roll call scattered and fled."

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that make the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity.

A giant quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh.


Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta contributed to this report.