Earth plagued by quakes

Two separate earthquakes shook parts of eastern and western Indonesia, causing people to run from their homes, the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said Tuesday. There were no immediate reports of damage. The strongest, a magnitude 5.8 temblor, shook Indonesia's remote Irian Jaya province at 8:21 a.m., the agency said in a statement. The quake was centred about 60 miles west of Manokwari town. Irian Jaya is located on the western half of New Guinea island, about 2,500 miles north-east of Jakarta. Earlier at 9:08 p.m. on Monday, a magnitude 5.2 quake shook parts of Sumatra island in western Indonesia, the agency is quoted by AP as saying. The temblor was centred beneath the Indian Ocean, about 117 miles south of the town of Manna. In June last year, a 7.9 magnitude quake killed at least 100 people and wrecked buildings and homes in Manna and the nearby city of Bengkulu. Indonesia, the world's largest archipelagic nation, is prone to frequent seismic upheavals because of its location on the so-called Pacific ''Ring of Fire.'' In the meantime, the India Quake Death Toll is rising. Government officials said they had counted about 6,200 bodies, but estimates of how high the death toll would climb varied widely, from 10,000 to 100,000. Damage was estimated at up to $5.5 billion. More than 6,200 dead have been registered across western India, but officials in Bhuj believe between 15,000 and 20,000 people may have died here alone. Local media on Tuesday reported that federal officials' initial figures -- which ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 -- were likely to be low. Defense Minister George Fernandes said that as many as 100,000 people may have died, with another 200,000 injured. Elsewhere in India, fresh tremors panicked residents Monday, but there were no reports damage beyond minor cracks in buildings. A magnitude 4.3 quake was centred just outside Bangalore, 850 miles south-east of Bhuj.

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