A 6.5 magnitude earthquake has struck the capital city of Ambon in the eastern province of Maluku. Most of the victims were killed by the collapse of houses and buildings in an unprepared region with weak infrastructure.
Indonesian officials announced on Friday that 19 people have died, with around 100 more people suffering from injuries.
While the region has a relatively smaller population than other parts of the country, poor housing structures in Ambon could cause the death toll to rise further.
Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency said most victims died as a result of collapsed infrastructure and that at least 117 buildings were damaged. Approximately 15,000 people sought refuge in temporary shelters.
Local disaster official Albert Simaela said the earthquake caused havoc in the city, with tsunami fears driving many people to scramble for higher ground.
"The temblor was so strong, causing us to pour into the streets," said Musa, an Ambon resident.
Tsunami fears cause traffic jams
According to the disaster official, traffic congestion hit the city as droves of people took to motorbikes in an attempt to reach safer grounds.
Rahmat Triyono, head of Indonesia's earthquake and tsunami center, reassured the region that the inland earthquake does not have the potential to unleash a tsunami.
Simaela announced that parts of a building at an Islamic university collapsed in Ambon and confirmed the death of a teacher who was present at the time of the collapse.
Simaela also said that the city's main hospital was damaged and that patients had to be evacuated to tents in the hospital's backyard.
Around 15,000 are housed in temporary shelters after about 117 buildings collapsed following the quake
The quake created large cracks in a main bridge in Ambon and several government offices were also affected.
According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake covered a stretch of 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) northeast of Ambon at a depth of 18 kilometers (11 miles).
Indonesian television footage showed hundreds of people sleeping in tents or in the open air overnight.
Maluku, despite being one of Indonesia's least populated provinces, still has around 1.7 million residents.
Situated along the Pacific "Ring of Fire", Indonesia experiences regular seismic activity.
mvb/ng (AFP, AP, dpa)