A quake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale brings down buildings in the capital and the island of Java, mosques included. A small tsunami is recorded off the coast at Pelabuhan Ratu. Tens of people have died so far. The quake’s epicentre is Tasikmalaya (West Java province), some 300 kilometres south-east of Jakarta. Caritas Indonesia is already at work helping victims.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A powerful earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale jolted the Indonesian island of Java, spreading panic among residents of the capital. A small tsunami was reported in the village of Pelabuhan Ratu, a tourist resort in the Sukabumi area, some 80 kilometres south of Jakarta.

The authorities in Cilacap (Central Java) are monitoring sea levels to warn the local population in case of unusual sea levels that could strike the coastline.

The quake was recorded at 2.45 pm, local time, and forced people working in Jakarta’s high rises, especially in its business district, to flee to safer places downstairs.

Many government offices in the city were also evacuated.

A meeting by the Indonesian Election Commission (KPU) ended abruptly as participants left the scene for safer grounds.

Guests at the Nikko Hotel in central Jakarta were also forced into the hotel’s courtyard.

Classes in schools like Saint John’s Catholic School in Tangerang Regency were suddenly brought to a close and students brought together far from buildings.

The quake’s epicentre was in Tasikmalaya (West Java province), about 300 kilometres south-east of Jakarta and 60 kilometres east of Bandung.

Many buildings have collapsed in the capital, including the big Ar Rahman Mosque.

In July 2006 an earthquake in West Java left 119 people dead, 84 missing and 70 injured.

In the meantime news reports are coming about casualties. In West Java at least 11 people are confirmed dead in Tasikmalaya, three in Garut and more in Cianjur. Tens of people are also reported missing.

Many buildings in Tasikmalaya suffered heavy damages.

Indonesia’s Catholic Church has already gone to work. The Indonesian Bishop’s Conference (KWI) relief agency Karina KWI has already dispatched a team to Tasikmalaya to determine the extent of damages and plan its first emergency interventions.

Local Church sources told AsiaNews that some 5,000 people have reportedly sought safety on higher ground.