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Strong quake hits northern Indonesia, killing at least 4

PALU, INDONESIA (BNO NEWS) -- A strong earthquake which struck a remote region of northern Indonesia on late Saturday afternoon has destroyed dozens of houses, killing at least four people, disaster management officials said on Sunday. Several villages have not yet been reached.

The 6.2-magnitude earthquake at 5:41 p.m. local time (0941 GMT) was centered about 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) southeast of Sigi Biromaru, the main town of Sigi Regency in Central Sulawesi province. It struck about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the country's seismological agency.

Rescue workers reached the remote area on Sunday and said damage and casualties were reported in at least nine villages, although efforts were still underway to determine if there are more casualties. "The impact of the earthquake as we have recorded so far is four people dead, seven people seriously injured, and 51 homes severely damaged," a spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said.

But large landslides in the quake-hit area prevented rescue teams from reaching a number of villages in three districts, and it remained unclear on Sunday if there are additional casualties there. "Heavy equipment such as trucks and bulldozers have been sent to the landslides," the BNPB spokesman said.

In addition to the seven people who were seriously injured, an unknown number of people also suffered less serious injuries and were taken to health centers in the region. For people who have been left homeless, rescue teams have set up emergency shelters in houses which have not been affected.

Indonesia is on the so-called 'Pacific Ring of Fire', an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. On December 26, 2004, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded struck off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. The 9.1-magnitude earthquake unleashed a deadly tsunami, striking scores of countries in the region, killing at least 227,898 people.

Most recently, on April 11, five people were killed and several others were injured when two massive earthquakes struck off the west coast of northern Sumatra. The earthquakes, with magnitudes 8.6 and 8.2, prompted a local tsunami warning, causing scores of people to flee to higher ground. Small tsunami waves were observed, but no major damage was reported.

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