- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2001

From combined dispatches

Two powerful earthquakes struck in different parts of the world yesterday.
One month after an earthquake killed 844 persons in El Salvador, a new earthquake struck the Central American nation, this time killing 173 persons and injuring more than 1,500.
And in Indonesia, a powerful underwater earthquake shook the island of Sumatra. There were no early reports of damage or casualties.
Yesterday's earthquake near San Salvador, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, flattened homes, schools and churches. The earthquake one month ago was stronger, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale.
"The preliminary total is of 92 dead, and the number of injured totals 714," President Francisco Flores told a news conference yesterday.
The National Emergency Committee said late yesterday the death toll had risen to 173 with 1,557 injured.
Government officials later raised the number of dead to 157 and injured to more than 1,000.
The quake struck at 8:22 a.m. (9:22 a.m. EST) as many Salvadorans were on their way to work. Thousands of others rushed into the streets when the ground started shaking.
Many of the casualties were in three districts close to the capital of San Salvador: La Paz, Cascatlan and San Vicente.
The quake destroyed houses in the town of San Vicente, some 40 miles east of the capital, according to Public Works Minister Jose Angel Quiroz.
"There are about 200 [collapsed] houses where people are buried," Mr. Quiroz told a local radio station.
Five schoolchildren and their teacher died when the quake leveled a parish school in the village of Candelaria, on the outskirts of the town of Cojutepeque, about 20 miles to the east of the capital. Another 15 children in the village were buried by falling debris.
One of the survivors, an 8-year-old boy, wept as he told reporters of the loss of his companions.
On a visit to San Vicente, Mr. Flores said, "I appeal to the population for calm, and even though it is a new blow for the country, it is not as harsh a blow as January 13 was."
Hundreds of people are still unaccounted for in the earlier quake, which wrecked more than 278,00 homes.
A reporter with the YSKL radio network said he had seen at least 15 persons being taken to a hospital in San Vicente. Some of the collapsed homes had been severely damaged by January's catastrophe, the radio reporter said.
Police throughout the stricken areas were put on full alert to prevent looters from ransacking homes.
Yesterday's earthquake was also felt in the neighboring Central American nations of Honduras and Guatemala.
Damage in the Salvadoran capital was minimal, witnesses said.
Several people were buried by falling masonry in the town of San Martin, 11 miles from the capital, the Red Cross said.
The U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., said the quake, which lasted for about 20 seconds, had a magnitude of 6.6.
The agency said the epicenter was 15 miles southeast of San Salvador.
Earlier, the National Earthquake Information Service in Colorado had put the magnitude at 5.7 and said the epicenter was 60 miles south of the capital.
The earthquake sent hundreds of panic-stricken office workers into the streets and forced schools to close. Witnesses said many children were in tears.
"Everybody has left their offices and is in the streets. People are panicking," one witness said.
Witnesses said there was an aftershock about an hour later.
In Honduras, office workers in the capital, Tegucigalpa, also dashed into the streets.
A spokesman for the Tegucigalpa fire department said, "We have reports of the quake from most parts of the country, but we have not heard of any damage or casualties."
Early today, another powerful quake rocked the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The underwater quake was strong enough to cause considerable damage and create tidal waves, the Australian Geological Survey Organization said.
"That's a major earthquake. It is a potentially very damaging earthquake," the organization's spokesman Kevin McCue said. He said he had not received any reports of damage.
The earthquake occurred at 6:28 a.m. Canberra time (3:28 p.m. Tuesday EST), with an epicenter in the ocean around 250 miles west of Jakarta. The coast near the epicenter is not considered to be densely populated, although powerful earthquakes in the past have killed dozens of people in the area.
Earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.3 can cause extensive damage in built-up areas.
Mr. McCue said it was very possible the earthquake could create tsunamis, or tidal waves.
"I wouldn't expect an Indian Ocean-wide one, but just locally I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were tsunami effects close to southern Sumatra," he said.
Mr. McCue said the earthquake was powerful enough to have shaken buildings in Jakarta and as far away as Singapore.
"We've had no reports of damage, nothing. It's always very difficult to get anything from that area, but I would imagine with an earthquake of this size, normally tall buildings in Jakarta and Singapore are shaken," he said.
"It wouldn't be felt by people on the street."
Earthquakes regularly hit Indonesia.
An earthquake measuring 7.9 hit the same area in June 2000, killing 120 persons and injuring 2,000 in widespread landslides. An earthquake measuring 6.8 killed at least 2,200 people on a string of islands in Indonesia in 1992.

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