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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tsunami Devastated Nations Hit by Twin Quakes

10:35am (UK)
Tsunami Devastated Nations Hit by Twin Quakes
Two major earthquakes struck southern Asia struck eight hours apart today, causing panic but little damage in a region still traumatised by last month?s quake-triggered tsunami that killed tens of thousands.

A pre-dawn 6.3 magnitude quake centred under Indonesia?s Sulawesi island ? far to the east of where the much more powerful magnitude 9.0 tremor struck on December 26 ? sent thousands of people running to higher ground in the city of Palu.

The epicentre of the quake was based on land ? unlike the one that spawned last-month?s tsunami. About 30 wooden houses and some shops were damaged.

?They were shouting ?water, water? because they feared waves,? said Dr Riri Lamadjido, at the city?s main Undata Hospital, which received no injured patients as a result of the quake.

Later, panic briefly spread through the streets of the Indian coastal city of Madras after residents felt an earthquake centred in the Bay of Bengal, near the Andaman Islands. Police said no damage or injuries were reported, but people could be seen running in the city after it was jolted.

Samuel Cherian, the senior police officer in Campbell Bay, the southernmost island in the Andaman archipelago, said: ?I was sitting in my office upstairs this morning at 10:45 when I felt a sudden jolt. My sentry downstairs also felt it. But there is no damage to property or life.?

The 6.3-magnitude quake hit near the islands at 0422 GMT, seismologists at the Hong Kong Observatory said. The epicentre was about 1,080 miles south-east of Calcutta.

Further reflecting the jitters in the region less than a month after the disaster, thousands of people in western Thailand fled their homes today after rumours spread that an earthquake had cracked four major dams, which and were about to burst.

The governor of Kanchanaburi province ? which was not hit by the Boxing Day tsunami ? went on the radio and the head of the government agency in charge of dams held a news conference to try to reassure people that the rumours were false and urge them to return home.

Last month?s quake off Indonesia?s western Sumatra island triggering waves that killed more than 200,000 people in 11 countries around the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile, UN officials said the number of relief camps in Indonesia?s Aceh province has dropped by about 75% in the past week.

The ?dramatic decrease? in the camps ? from 385 to less than 100 ? was good news because relief settlements can cause survivors to become too dependent on outside help, said Joel Boutroue, head of UN relief efforts in Aceh.

Most people were moving in with relatives, and a few were returning to their villages along the devastated west coast, he said.

To smooth the delivery of aid to hundreds of thousands of survivors, governments in the two worst-hit nations of Indonesia and Sri Lanka were trying today to ease tensions with indigenous rebel movements that threatened to hold up supplies.

Indonesian officials agreed to meet Aceh rebel leaders later this week in Finland to negotiate a ceasefire in the province, where separatists have been fighting for an independent homeland for nearly 30 years.

Despite an informal ceasefire announced by both sides since the disaster, there have been isolated reports of fighting, raising concerns about the security of relief operations in Aceh. The Indonesian military said yesterday it had killed 200 alleged rebels in the last four weeks.

In Sri Lanka, Norway?s foreign minister met held separate talks with the country?s prime minister and a top guerrilla leader over the weekend to help resolve a dispute over aid distribution on the island nation, where the tsunami killed about 31,000 people and displaced another million.

The Tamil Tigers have repeatedly accused the government of obstructing aid deliveries to rebel-controlled areas in Sri Lanka?s north and east ? allegations the government denies.


Stay in your heart. Regardless of what happens, stay in your heart.


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