Strong quake hits off Indonesia, one reported dead

1 / 4
Indonesian residents evacuate to higher grounds fearing a tsunami after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia, in Banggai on April 12, 2019. (AFP)
2 / 4
This handout picture taken and released by Indonesia's Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB), the accident mitigation agency, on April 13, 2019 shows residents in Banggai gather in the open after a strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia on April 12, reportedly killing one person and triggering a brief tsunami warning that sent panicked residents fleeing to higher ground. (AFP)
3 / 4
This handout picture taken and released by Indonesia's Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB), the accident mitigation agency, on April 13, 2019 shows rescuers evacuate residents in Banggai after a strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia on April 12, reportedly killing one person and triggering a brief tsunami warning that sent panicked residents fleeing to higher ground. (AFP)
4 / 4
This photograph taken with a phone shows Indonesian residents rushing for higher ground fearing a tsunami after a strong 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Luwuk, in Central Sulawesi of eastern Indonesia on April 12, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 13 April 2019

Strong quake hits off Indonesia, one reported dead

  • Thousands in Palu were still living in makeshift shelters six months after the late September disaster with at least 170,000 residents of the city

LUWUK, Indonesia: A strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia on Friday, reportedly killing one person and triggering a brief tsunami warning that sent panicked residents fleeing to higher ground.
The quake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 17 kilometers (10 miles) off the east coast of Sulawesi island, the US Geological Survey said, where a 7.5-magnitude quake-tsunami around the city of Palu killed more than 4,300 people last year.
Three light-to-moderate aftershocks occurred in the same area following the initial quake Friday, USGS reported.
Indonesia’s disaster agency issued a tsunami warning for coastal communities in Morowali district, where residents were advised to move away from the coast.
The warning was later lifted by the agency, which had estimated the wave at under a half a meter (20 inches).
Video footage from Luwuk city showed scared residents — some carrying children — running from their homes and racing to higher ground on motorcycles.
The USGS warned that considerable damage was possible in poorly built or badly designed structures.
Hapsah Abdul Madjid, who lives in Luwuk city in Banggai district, Central Sulawesi, where the tremor was felt strongly, said people fled to higher ground and the electricity was cut, adding that residents panicked as fears soared over an imminent tsunami.
One person trying to flee fell and died, Kompas.com news website reported, citing a provincial health worker.
Kompas identified the victim as Daeng Pasang, 66.
The tremor off the eastern coast of Sulawesi is on the other side of the island from disaster-hit Palu, where residents still felt the quake despite being hundreds of kilometers away.
“I ran straight outside after the earthquake — everything was swaying,” 29-year-old Palu resident Mahfuzah told AFP.

Thousands in Palu were still living in makeshift shelters six months after the late September disaster, with at least 170,000 residents of the city and surrounding districts displaced and entire neighborhoods still in ruins, despite life returning to normal in other areas of the tsunami-struck city.
The force of last year’s quake saw entire neighborhoods levelled by liquefaction — a process where the ground starts behaving like a liquid and swallows up the earth like quicksand.
Apart from the damage to tens of thousands of buildings, the disaster destroyed fishing boats, shops and irrigation systems, robbing residents of their income.
Indonesia has said the damage bill in Palu topped $900 million. The World Bank has offered the country up to $1 billion in loans to get the city back on its feet.
Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.
On boxing day December 26, 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck westernmost Aceh province, causing a tsunami and killing more than 170,000 in Indonesia.
Last year was also particularly tough, when Indonesia experienced more than 2,500 disasters ranging from a series of deadly earthquakes to killer landslides and volcanic eruptions.
The sprawling archipelago is dotted with more than 100 volcanoes, including one in the middle of the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands that erupted in late 2018 and unleashed a tsunami that killed more than 400 people.


Pakistan shuts Taftan border after coronavirus kills six in Iran

Updated 25 min 4 sec ago

Pakistan shuts Taftan border after coronavirus kills six in Iran

  • Flights to and from Iran unaffected despite deaths
  • Health emergency declared in border districts 

KARACHI: Pakistan has sealed its Taftan border and stopped pilgrims from traveling via the crossing to Iran after six coronavirus deaths were reported in the neighboring country, officials told Arab News on Sunday.
Afghanistan has also suspended travel to the neighboring country as fears across the region continued to grow over a jump in new coronavirus infections.
There are several shrines in Iran which are frequented by a large number of Shiites from Pakistan. Hundreds of people access the Taftan border crossing between the countries on a daily basis.
Pakistan has stopped all movement from crossing points, launched screening procedures and introduced additional patrols along the border “until the situation is under control,” Mir Zia Ullah Langove, home minister of southwestern Balochistan province, said.
“We are trying to take every possible precaution,” he told Arab News, adding that these were efforts being taken by the provincial government, with assurance from Prime Minister Imran Khan that the federal government would also be extending its help.
The move to seal the border follows Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan’s decision to declare a health emergency in all provincial districts bordering Iran on Saturday. But reports of the coronavirus deaths have had no impact on flights to and from Iran.
“The staff of the health ministry is already present at the airports and a passenger is allowed entry only after clearance of health declaration,” Abdul Sattar Khokhar, Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan spokesman, told Arab News as he dismissed reports of a temporary halt on flights to Iran.
“There is no reality in reports that flight operations to Iran have been stopped. We had neither stopped flight operations to and from China and nor will it be stopped to any other country.”
Imran Zarkon, who is chief of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, said 1,000 masks had been distributed in border areas and a temporary hospital tent with 100-beds had been set up to deal with an emergency as part of preventive efforts.
“Qom is the most affected area of Iran where the pilgrims go, so if there is any possibility of virus coming to Pakistan it will be through Taftan and authorities here are on high alert,” he told Arab News.
But these steps have failed to console the people of Balochistan, with some expressing concern about illegal movement along the porous border.
“Iran shares over #1000 KM long porous border with #Balochistan #Pakistan, #coronaravirus deaths are alarming news for the region,” Sanallah Baloch, a Balochistan lawmaker, tweeted on Saturday. “Daily 100s of people cross these borders without formal procedures, region is poverty-stricken with no medical facility.”
In a statement released Sunday, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said he had discussed the matter with Iranian officials to safeguard Pakistani nationals visiting the country.
Qadri also spoke to Dr. Zafar Mirza, state minister for health, on the deployment of medical teams to Taftan town along the border.
Iranian health authorities said 28 people were being treated for the virus in at least four different cities, including Tehran.
Both Afghanistan and Pakistan share long, porous borders with Iran that are often used by smugglers and human traffickers, while millions of Afghan refugees currently live in the Islamic Republic — raising fears that the virus could easily spread over the border.
“To prevent the spread of the novel #coronavirus and protect the public, Afghanistan suspends all passenger movement (air and ground) to and from Iran,” the office of the National Security Council of Afghanistan said in a statement posted on Twitter.
A provincial official in Pakistan and the country’s Frontier Corps also confirmed that the country had sealed the land border with Iran.
Earlier Sunday, Iran reported eight deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest toll of any country outside China, as the supreme leader accused foreign media of trying to use the outbreak to sabotage a general election.
The latest three deaths Iran reported on Sunday were among 15 new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, bringing the overall number of infections to 43 and fatalities to eight — the highest death toll outside of China, the epicenter of the epidemic.
Four new infections surfaced in the capital Tehran, seven in the holy city of Qom, two in Gilan and one each in Markazi and Tonekabon, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.
Authorities have ordered as a “preventive measure” the closure of schools, universities and other educational centers in 14 provinces across Iran from Sunday.
Desperate and jobless Afghans have crossed the porous border with Iran for years in search of work to support their struggling families back home.
But hundreds of thousands of Afghans have returned home in recent years as US sanctions have battered the Iranian economy.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a Facebook post on Sunday said the country is closing its border with Iran for two weeks and suspending air traffic after reports of coronavirus cases there.
(With AFP and Reuters)