Strong quake hits Indonesia’s Java, kills three

Map of Indonesia

JAKARTA (Reuters) – A powerful magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck the island of Java in Indonesia just before midnight on Friday, with authorities reporting three deaths and damage to hundreds of buildings.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was located at a depth of 92 km (57 miles), about 52 km southwest of Tasikmalaya.

Indonesia’s national disaster management agency said the quake activated early tsunami warning systems in the south of Java, prompting thousands to evacuate from some coastal areas, but no tsunami was detected.

Tremors were felt in central and west Java.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the disaster agency, said in a press briefing on Saturday three people had been killed, seven injured and hundreds of buildings damaged, including schools, hospitals, and government buildings in West and Central Java.

Dozens of patients had to be helped to safety from a hospital in Banyumas and were given shelter in tents, he said.

He posted on his Twitter page photos of people scouring collapsed buildings.

The quake swayed buildings for several seconds in the capital Jakarta. Some residents of high rise apartment buildings in central Jakarta quickly escaped their apartments, local media reported.

Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency said a magnitude 5.7 quake early on Saturday also struck south of West Java. It said the quake did not have tsunami potential.

Java, Indonesia’s most densely populated island, is home to more than half of its 250 million people.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor, Agustinus Da Costa and Fransiska Nangoy; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Hugh Lawson & Shri Navaratnam)

Storm lashes New Zealand quake zone, more buildings evacuated

Evacuees formerly stranded in the earthquake-affected town of Kaikoura walk away from the New Zealand Air Force helicopter that brought them to the town of Woodend, near Christchurch, New Zealand,

By Lincoln Feast

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (Reuters) – Rain and strong winds battered central New Zealand on Thursday, threatening further damage just days after a powerful earthquake killed two people and devastated parts of the country’s South Island with huge landslides.

More than 1,000 tourists and residents have been evacuated from the small seaside town of Kaikoura by a fleet of helicopters and a New Zealand naval vessel since the 7.8 magnitude quake struck early on Monday.

Kaikoura, a fishing town and popular whale-watching base ringed by steep mountains, was completely cut off by landslides covering the coastal road and rail corridor.

Further helicopter evacuations from Kaikoura on Thursday had been disrupted due to the bad weather, said Sarah Stuart-Black, director of the Ministry of Civil Defence Emergency Management.

“We are really concerned about the changing weather situation,” she told reporters. “It could mean that there’s an increased risk of further landslides, obviously surface flooding, so we want people to be safe.”

An inland road to Kaikoura, briefly reopened to emergency vehicles, was closed due to more landslides, officials said.

Warships from Australia, Canada and the United States, in the country for the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary, had arrived in Kaikoura to assist with the recovery.

“The ships, crews and maritime helicopters provided by our partner militaries have given us a great deal of flexibility in supporting the national relief effort,” said New Zealand Joint Forces Commander Major General Tim Gall.

Most of the tourists evacuated to Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city about 150 km (90 miles) south of Kaikoura, had continued their journeys but around 130 people were being housed temporarily in Canterbury University’s student halls.

With damage expected to take months to repair, the government announced a NZ$7.5 million ($5.3 million) wage subsidy package to support small businesses in Kaikoura for two months.

“These companies … are going to have a sustained reduction in their turnover to the point of almost nothing for a long period of time and that’s why we think it’s appropriate for the government to step in,” Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told reporters.

Analysts at ANZ Bank said that, while the local economic hit would be significant, there would only be a “small dent” in New Zealand’s overall activity, far lower than the 2011 quake in Christchurch that killed almost 200 people.


In Wellington, as many as 60 buildings were damaged, including serious structural damage to three relatively recently constructed multi-storey buildings, one of which engineers said would have to be torn down.

The government said it would launch an investigation into why the newer buildings had been unable to withstand the quake.

More buildings were evacuated and roads cordoned off on Thursday as engineers assessed the damage.

Wellington is bisected by several fault lines, and large areas of its business district are built on reclaimed land, raising questions about building practices in the capital despite some of the world’s strictest codes.

“It is a concern, people do want to know the buildings they’re in are going to be safe,” Wellington Mayor Justin Lester told reporters. “Everybody wants a building to perform as is expected, so when it doesn’t … you need to understand how. There’s no simple answer.”

The force of the tremor was most evident in the upper South Island, where parts of the coast moved meters. A team of volunteers rescued thousands of abalone, a large shellfish known locally as paua, that had been thrown up from the sea bed and left high and dry.

Evacuees formerly stranded in the earthquake-affected town of Kaikoura stand alongside the helicopter that brought them to the town of Woodend, near Christchurch, New Zealand

Evacuees formerly stranded in the earthquake-affected town of Kaikoura stand alongside the helicopter that brought them to the town of Woodend, near Christchurch, New Zealand, November 16, 2016. REUTERS/Lincoln Feast

A popular New Zealand fur seal colony near Kaikoura, where pups could often be seeing playing in a waterfall in a nearby stream, was destroyed by a landslide, Department of Conversation officials said.

Civil Defence evacuated some residents near several rivers in the region where landslides from the earthquakes had blocked the rivers and risked dangerous collapses.

Seismologists are still recording hundreds of aftershocks – some 2,000 have rattled the region since the initial tremor.

Government body Geonet Science estimated an almost one-in-three chance of another 7-7.8 magnitude quake hitting the wider region within the next 30 days.

“We stress to Wellington that we need to be prepared,” Lester, the mayor, said.

(This version of the story corrects designation of Lester in final paragraph)

New Zealand evacuates quake hit town, fears of Wellington building collapse

By Lincoln Feast and Charlotte Greenfield

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand emergency services and defense personnel evacuated hundreds of tourists and residents from a small South Island town amid more strong aftershocks on Tuesday, a day after a powerful earthquake killed two people.

The 7.8-magnitude tremor struck just after midnight on Sunday, destroying farm homesteads, sending glass and masonry toppling from buildings in the capital, Wellington, and cutting road and rail links throughout the northeast of the ruggedly beautiful South Island.

As aftershocks continued to rattle the region, emergency services cordoned off streets in Wellington and evacuated several buildings due to fears one of them might collapse.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force member (R) helps evacuate a toddler and others aboard an NH90 helicopter from Kaikoura on the South Island of New Zealand

A Royal New Zealand Air Force member (R) helps evacuate a toddler and others aboard an NH90 helicopter from Kaikoura on the South Island of New Zealand November 15, 2016, stranded following the recent earthquakes. Sgt Sam Shepherd/Courtesy of Royal New Zealand Defence Force/Handout via REUTERS

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said the vacant building appeared to have suffered structural damage when the land it was on subsided in the quake. A fire service official said a major structural beam had “snapped like a bone”.

The town of Kaikoura, a popular base for whale-watching about 150 km (90 miles) northeast of Christchurch, the South Island’s main city, remained cut off by massive landslips.

Four defense force helicopters flew in to the town on Tuesday morning and two Navy vessels were heading to the area carrying supplies and to assist with the evacuation, Air Commander Darryn Webb, acting commander of New Zealand joint forces, told TVNZ.

“We’re looking to do as many flights as we can out of Kaikoura today,” he said.

Around 400 of the 1,200 tourists stranded in the town were flown out on Tuesday, including 12 people with a variety of injuries, officials said.


Landslides block State Highway One near Kaikoura on the upper east coast of New Zealand's South Island following an earthquake, November 14, 2016. Sgt Sam Shepherd/Courtesy of Royal New Zealand

Landslides block State Highway One near Kaikoura on the upper east coast of New Zealand’s South Island following an earthquake, November 14, 2016. Sgt Sam Shepherd/Courtesy of Royal New Zealand Defence Force/Handout via REUTERS –

The Red Cross, which used defense force helicopters to bring in emergency generators, satellite communications and water bladders, said water in the town was running out.

Mark Solomon, a leader of South Island indigenous Maori Ngai Tahu tribe, which has tourism and fisheries businesses around Kaikoura, said the local marae (Maori meeting place) had received 1,000 people since Monday morning. Many slept overnight in the communal hall or in vehicles outside.

The tribe had fed them with crayfish, a delicacy for which the South Island town is famous. With no power, the tanks that hold the expensive crustaceans had stopped pumping.

“It’s better to use the food than throw it in the rubbish so we sent it up to the marae to feed people,” Solomon told Reuters by phone.


China chartered four helicopters to evacuate around 40 nationals from Kaikoura, mostly elderly and children, late on Monday, said Liu Lian, an official at the Chinese Consulate in Christchurch.

One Chinese national had been treated for a minor head injury in Kaikoura’s hospital, Liu said, and around 60 others would be evacuated on Tuesday.

“They have been trapped in Kaikoura for a couple of days, some are maybe scared, they have some mental stress,” Liu told Reuters. Many planned to continue journeys to other parts of New Zealand, Liu said.

Other tourists also said they planned to continue their trips, and travel agencies said they hadn’t noticed a drop off in bookings, easing concerns about a major hit to the sector, New Zealand’s biggest export earner.

Gale-force winds and rain were hampering recovery efforts, and hundreds of aftershocks continued to rock the region. A 5.4 tremor was among the bigger aftershocks and was felt strongly in Wellington.

Finance Minister Bill English said the government was well positioned to deal with the expected repair bill of billions of dollars, with low debt and budget surpluses.

“We are in about as good a shape as we could be to deal with this natural disaster,” English told parliament.

Civil Defence estimated 80,000-100,000 landslides had been caused by the quakes.

New Zealand media reported that three cows filmed stranded on a small patch of grass surrounded by landslips near Kaikoura had been rescued by a farmer.

Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said New Zealand had accepted an offer of two U.S. Navy helicopters from the destroyer the USS Sampson, as well as an offer of help from the Japanese military.

It was hoped an inland road to Kaikoura from the south could be reopened by the weekend, he said.

Workers earlier began returning to office buildings in Wellington’s business district, which was closed off on Monday while the risk to buildings was assessed.

Several blocks were damaged, including the offices of Statistics New Zealand, which halted the release of economic data and said it would be months before it could use the building.

An A-League soccer match scheduled for Saturday between the Wellington Phoenix and Australia’s Melbourne Victory has been postponed because of damage to Wellington’s 34,000-seat Westpac Stadium, officials said.

New Zealand lies in the seismically active “Ring of Fire”, a 40,000-km arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches that encircles much of the Pacific Ocean.

Christchurch is still recovering from a 6.3 magnitude quake in 2011 that killed 185 people.

(Additional reporting by Swati Pandey and Nick Mulvenney in SYDNEY; Editing by Paul Tait)

Nepal Death Toll Over 4,000

The death toll in the massive Nepal earthquake and aftershock has passed the 4,000 mark and local officials say it’s likely to continue a fast rise over the next few days.

Almost every member of the Nepalese military has been dispatched for search and rescue operations with focus on villages that have been inaccessible due to debris and damage.

Officials have now confirmed at least 7,000 people have been injured as a result of the quakes.  The hospitals are full and tent surgical theaters and treatment tents have been set up in the parking areas and open fields near the hospitals.

The Nepalese government has sent out an emergency call for “tents, dry goods, blankets, mattresses and 80 different medicines”.

The United States announced Monday an additional $9 million in relief supplies for the rescue effort.  China, India and Pakistan have sent emergency response teams to the region.  International aid agencies say that Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand have also contributed to the rescue efforts.

The United Nations World Food Program said they are preparing a “large, massive operation” for the region.

A spokesman for World Vision released a somber statement to the press.  Matt Darvas said that some villages that were on mountainsides could be completely buried by rock falls.  Some of the villages that are wiped out had up to 1,000 residents.

Massive Earthquake Shakes Mexico and Guatemala

A major earthquake woke up Mexico and Guatemala Monday morning, leaving at least four people dead.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck around 6:23 a.m. local time on the Pacific Coast about a mile from Puerto Madero on the Guatemalan border.  The quake was initially measured at 7.1 but reduced to 6.9.

Two people died in the Guatemalan town of Pati when their home collapsed on them.  A third was confirmed dead from a heart attack brought on by the stress of the quake.  A wall in Huixtla crushed a man when a building collapsed.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said on the radio that a newborn was killed when hit by a collapsing wall but emergency personnel did not confirm it.

Massive power outages have left most of Guatemala without electricity.  Early reports had hundreds of homes with significant damage and utility poles down for hundreds of miles.

Second Major Quake In Two Days Strikes Chile

Another day, another massive quake and tsunami warning for Chile and parts of Peru.

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck in almost the same location as Tuesday’s 8.2 magnitude quake.  The second quake is considered officially an aftershock of the Tuesday quake but it still provides a significant shock on its own.

The quake was so strong in neighboring Peru that residents of Tacna and Arequipa fled homes out of fear they would collapse.

The tsunami alert and precautionary evacuation of low-lying areas meant the residents spent a second night away from their homes.

Even the president of the country was forced to evacuate because of the tsunami warning.  President Michelle Bachelet posted on Twitter: “I was evacuated like all citizens.  One can see that the people are prepared.”

Authorities say at least six deaths have been confirmed but that because so many older structures have collapsed from the two quakes and it’s possible there are victims trapped inside those buildings.

Scientists Fear Bigger Earthquake To Come

Hours after an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northern Chile, scientists claim that an even bigger earthquake could strike in the near future.

A fault line located underneath Chile’s coast has been constantly shifting for the past 140 years causing Tuesday’s quake. Within recent weeks, Chile has seen approximately 50 to 100 smaller quakes.

This recent cluster of activity is now threatening to rupture a different fault line located to the north and south of the recent earthquake. Mark Simons, a geophysicist from Caltech, says that fault line “hasn’t ruptured in 140-odd years.”

Given that Chile is located in the “Ring of Fire” where there is frequent seismic activity, it is only a matter of time until the other fault line ruptures.

“We expect another 8.8-8.9 earthquake here sometime in the future,” said geophysicist, Mark Simons.

Massive Quake Rocks Chile; Small Tsunami Created

A magnitude 8.2 earthquake off the coast of northern Chile left at least six people dead and injured hundreds.

The quake was significant enough that government and local officials forced an evacuation of the coastline in anticipation of a tsunami.  The waves peaked out about 7 feet above normal before officials allowed residents to return 10 hours after the quake.

The only major damage from tsunami waves struck Iquique by flooding city streets and washing away fishing boats.  The city was also hosting several military units after the quake caused the collapse of a wall in the city’s women’s prison resulting the escape of all 300 prisoners.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had 20 aftershocks including one that registered magnitude 6.2.  The initial quake was so large that the USGS reports the capital of neighboring Bolivia reported a 4.5 magnitude earthquake.

Mike Simons, a seismologist with the USGS, said that despite the intensity of the current quake, scientists are expecting a more massive quake to strike Chile.

“Could be tomorrow, could be in 50 years; we do not know when it’s going to occur. But the key point here is that this magnitude-8.2 is not the large earthquake that we were expecting for this area,” Simons said.

Death Toll From Philippines Quake Rises To 183

Authorities in the Philippines’ Bohol province have raised the official death toll from last week’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake to 183 and the count of wounded to 583.

The massive quake destroyed over 8,600 homes in Quezon City.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said that landslides were reported throughout Bohol province and that outside Quezon City more than 8,500 homes were destroyed and over 26,000 were damaged.

The NDRRMC also said that many roads and bridges have suffered significant structural damage and many government buildings are unstable.

The earthquake has displaced more than 3.5 million people across six provinces.

The Philippines are directly above the Pacific Ring of Fire noted for its volcanic and earthquake activity.