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Andamans rattled by 9,500 aftershocks since tsunamit
2005 02 21

PORT BLAIR, India : The tsunami-lashed Andaman and Nicobar Islands have suffered 9,500 aftershocks since an undersea earthquake December 26 sent giant waves crashing into the emerald green archipelago, India's top geologist said.
But K.N. Mathur, director-general of the Geological Survey of India, said the tremors were incapable of triggering tsunamis similar to those that claimed at least 288,800 lives in 11 countries in Asia and Africa.

"There's still large-scale panic among the islanders of Andaman and Nicobar and we want to assure them there's no cause for alarm," the geologist told AFP on a visit to the Andaman's tsunami-ravaged capital of Port Blair that wound up Friday.

Authorities have reported an exodus of hundreds of islanders fleeing this tropical paradise for mainland India, petrified of the aftershocks.

"Since January 6 when my department installed five seismographs in different places of the Andamans, we recorded 9,500 aftershocks," the government scientist said.

The chain of Indian-administered islands spans the seas from Myanmar to Indonesia.

"This is a normal pattern and should not be mistaken" as a signal of a new earthquake, Mathur said.

"We're still recording aftershocks from Gujarat," Mathur said, referring to the western Indian state where an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale killed about 20,000 people in January 2001.

Mathur, touring the isles of Andamans with scientists, said his team expected the aftershocks to continue for the next two years "or even longer" in the region where 356,000 people inhabit 36 islands created by pre-historic volcanic eruptions.

He dismissed fears of islanders that the quakes, ranging up to 6.0 on the Richter scale, would set off another massive undersea seismic upheaval similar to the one off Indonesia, measuring 9.3 on the Richter scale, that triggered the killer tsunamis.

More than 2,000 people have been declared dead and 5,555 missing in the Andamans, where the waves washed away 70 percent of its jetties, sank hundreds of boats and wrecked Port Blair's commercial harbour and dockyards.

"Only seaquakes of more than seven on the Richter scale can cause tsunamis," he said. "The possibility of another big tremor is very remote. Also, these aftershocks are a good sign as energy is being released gradually, minimising possibilities of bigger earthquakes."

An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale rocked Indonesia's Sulawesi island Saturday, causing sea levels to rise and sparking fears of another tsunami, meteorologists and police said.

Indian meteorology officials said the quake had no impact on the Andamans.

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