JAKARTA, Nov 12: A succession of powerful earthquakes rocked eastern Indonesia on Friday, killing at least 17 people, injuring more than 100 others and destroying hundreds of homes, police said.

The quake, which was felt in the nearby country of East Timor, struck Alor Island, 1,000 kilometres east of the resort isle of Bali, and left hospitals struggling to cope with the wounded.

Local meteorologists put the magnitude of the quake, which struck at 4:26 am Jakarta time (2126 GMT Thursday) at 6 on the Richter scale, while the Observatory of Earth Sciences in Strasbourg recorded the tremor at 7.3.

The quake which was followed by three powerful aftershocks, Alor deputy police chief Hasan Kiko told AFP. The tremors damaged 1,100 buildings across the island, he said, adding that at least 22 homes were flattened.

He said at least 160 people were hospitalised with injuries and many people had left their homes to huddle in open fields. The earthquake was also felt in the East Timor capital Dili, roughly 50 kilometres to the southeast of Alor, prompting many there to flee their homes.

There were no casualties and no major damage to the half-island nation, but residents said a floating hotel in Dili's natural harbour was briefly grounded as the quake caused waters to recede.

East Timor's national security chief David Ximenes said meteorologists had warned of a major seismic event in the next two days and warned citizens to stay away from shorelines and major rivers where tidal waves were a risk.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, lies at the collision point of three tectonic plates. Pressure between the massive segments of the Earth's crust cause frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. -AFP

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