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Indonesia rattled by earthquakes

A school damaged by earthquakes in Nabire, Papua province.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A strong earthquake has struck Indonesia, becoming at least the seventh to hit the same general area in the past few days, the U.S. Geological Survey has said.

The Saturday quake, in eastern Papua province, measured 7.1 on the Richter scale, according to survey spokesman Butch Kinerney.

An earlier quake on Friday killed two dozen people and the scale of the Saturday quake "leads us to believe there could be significant damage and casualties from this earthquake as well," he said.

The Papua region, formerly known as Irian Jaya, is remote and no casualty reports have yet been received, he said.

"This is the largest and latest in a series of earthquakes in this area stretching back for a week or so...Obviously there is some kind of seismic activity going on there ... There's no way for us to tell whether this is the beginning or the end of it," Kinerney said.

Saturday's quake occurred 30 miles (48 km) west of the one recorded on Friday, which caused casualties in the town of Nabire. The nearest big city is Enarotali, 90 miles (145 km) away.

Since February 3, the region has been struck by a total of seven moderate to strong earthquakes, ranging from 4.5 on the Richter scale to 7.1, Kinerney said.

Rugged but resource-rich Papua is 1,900 miles (3,000 km) east of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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