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06 March, 2007

Two earthquakes; More casualities feared

Two strong earthquakes hit Indonesia's Sumatra island on Tuesday, killing at least 70 people, flattening buildings and sending emergency operations into full swing to deal with the injured and displaced. The tremors were felt as far away as Malaysia and Singapore, where several buildings were evacuated.

Scores of people were believed trapped under rubble on Sumatra, prompting the government to send in the military to assist with rescue efforts. The Red Cross also deployed a rapid response team to assess the damage and needs of victims

The first quake of magnitude 6.3 was felt in the West Sumatra provincial capital of Padang at around 11 a.m., sparking panic among seaside residents who feared it might trigger a tsunami. A second 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck the same area two hours later, causing more panic. However, there was no immediate tsunami warning after the quakes, which had their epicentre under land.

The United States Geological Survey said the first quake's epicentre was around 420 km (260 miles) from Singapore. The Indonesian national quake centre measured the quake at 5.8. Padang is one of the few Indonesian cities where a tsunami warning system is in place. A quake in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra island in December 2004 and the tsunami it caused left about 170,000 people dead or missing in northern Aceh province.

Source: Reuters AlertNet

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