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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tsunami-Wracked Indonesia Rocked by 6.3 Earthquake

Mon 24 Jan 2005
9:18am (UK)
Tsunami-Wracked Indonesia Rocked by Earthquake

Indonesia was rocked by a powerful earthquake today that caused panic and damaged dozens of homes, as the government and Acehâ??s rebels prepared for talks to help rebuild the tsunami-shattered province.

The epicentre of the 6.3-magnitude quake â?? far to the east of Aceh â?? was determined to be under the central part of Sulawesi island, said Suharjono, a seismologist in Jakarta. The pre-dawn quake did not create a tsunami.

Thousands of people ran to higher ground in the city of Palu, where police said about 30 wooden houses were damaged, and patients at the main Undata hospital fled the building.

â??They were shouting â??water, waterâ?? because they feared waves,â?? said Dr Riri Lamadjido, adding that the hospital had received no injured patients as a result of the quake.

Residents in Madras on the east coast of India also felt the shocks of the earthquake. Police said no damage or injuries were reported, but residents could be seen running in the city after it was jolted.

On December 26, Indonesiaâ??s western Sumatra island was struck by a much more powerful 9.0-magnitude earthquake, triggering waves that killed anywhere from 162,000 to 228,000 people in 11 countries around the Indian Ocean.

The east coast of India was also badly hit by the December 26 tsunami, and has recently been jolted by aftershocks, Hong Kong seismologists said today.

A month after the disaster, people remained anxious and nervous, even in areas not directly affected.

In an inland province west of Thailandâ??s capital, thousands fled their homes earlier today after rumours spread that a new earthquake had opened cracks in four major hydroelectric dams that were about to break open and flood the region.

The governor of Kanchanaburi province 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.

The number of relief camps in Indonesiaâ??s Aceh province has dropped by about 75% in the past week, a UN official said today.

The â??dramatic decreaseâ?? in the camps â?? from 385 to less than 100 â?? 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 with 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, according to Finlandâ??s Crisis Management Initiative, headed by former President Martti Ahtisaari.

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