Earthquakes

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 March 2000

Citation

(2000), "Earthquakes", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 9 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/dpm.2000.07309aac.003

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited


Earthquakes

Earthquakes

25 January 1999 - Colombia

At least 45 people died and hundreds were injured when a powerful earthquake, measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, ripped through Colombia's central coffee-growing region today, witnesses and local media said. The Red Cross confirmed death and destruction across five provinces but was unable to give a precise toll saying it was still in the "first phase of evaluation". The quake knocked out telephone communications, brought buildings tumbling to the ground in several major provincial capitals and sent tall buildings swaying in Bogota. Initial reports suggested the central province of Quindio was worst hit by the quake which struck at 13.19, EST (18.19, UTC), and was classed as being capable of causing serious damage in a populated area. At least 17 people were reported killed in the town of Circasia and another 15 were said to have died in the town of Calarca, just outside the provincial capital Armenia, where the hospital was thought to have collapsed, according to the RCN radio network. In neighbouring Risaralda province, the quake laid waste to the downtown area of provincial capital Pereira, killing at least six people and injuring some 200 others. Authorities declared a curfew in the city to allow rescue teams to work unhindered. Other deaths were reported in rural areas of Quindio and in central Tolima province.

26 January 1999 - The toll from a powerful earthquake that ripped through Colombia's central coffee-growing region stood at dawn today at more than 500 dead and over 2,000 injured, authorities said. The quake, which struck at 13.19 yesterday and measured 6.0 on the Richter scale, was being described as the worst ever recorded in Colombia, and the casualty figures seemed certain to soar as emergency workers stepped up rescue efforts at first light. The provincial capital of Armenia, nestled high in the Andes mountains of Quindio province, was the worst-hit spot in a disaster zone that covered 20 cities and towns in five provinces. "Armenia was just not prepared for a disaster like this. We will not know the real scale of the situation here until the morning", Henry Gonzalez, government secretary at Armenia City Hall, said before dawn today. He put the partial toll in the city at 326 dead and 1,000 injured but added that relief workers had still not been able to reach parts of Armenia totally devastated by the quake. Walter Cote, head of Colombia's Red Cross, said the situation in Armenia was "extremely critical and the death toll could rise quite dramatically". Civil Defence, Red Cross workers and the government's National Solidarity Network said at least 178 other people died and more than 1,000 were injured in the adjacent community of Calarca; in Pereira, capital of neighbouring Risaralda province; and in at least ten other towns and villages spread across the disaster zone. Hercules military transport aircraft began flying some of the worst injured survivors into Bogota for specialist treatment early today as relief agencies and the army shipped out much-needed medical supplies to the quake zone. Local media reported two teams of earthquake specialists from Japan and the USA were due to arrive in Colombia later today to join the search for survivors. Authorities said half of Armenia's buildings had been destroyed or severely damaged by the tremor, leaving the city looking as if it had experienced intense aerial bombardment. Rescue workers and ordinary citizens burrowed away at the rubble of collapsed buildings and mechanical diggers got to work bulldozing away the tangled wreckage of slabs of concrete and twisted metal. Today's edition of El Espectador newspaper said less than 15 per cent of the rubble and wreckage had so far been removed, with hundreds of people still feared trapped some 18 hours after the tremor struck. Television footage from nearby Pereira showed rescue workers pulling the partially clothed bodies of victims from the ruins as fires, which broke out in the aftermath of the quake, devoured the remains of buildings. The quake caused many landslides along the main routes leading into and out of Quindio and Risaralda provinces, authorities said. "We're overwhelmed by the magnitude of this earthquake", Alberto Parra, head of Colombia's Civil Defence network, said. The earthquake was thought to be the worst on record in Colombia. The National Coffee Growers' Federation said it had no immediate reports of damage to Colombia's prized coffee crop, the country's No. 2 export earner, but noted that telephone communications to much of the quake-hit area had been interrupted. Earthquakes are common in this Andean nation, but most are centred so deep beneath the earth's crust that they do little or no damage. Colombia's National Seismological Institute said the centre of yesterday's quake was less than 20 miles below the surface - far less than normal - and the epicentre was located in a mountainous region 115 miles south-west of Bogota on the borders of Tolima and Quindio provinces. The institute reported scores of aftershocks, the largest measuring between 5.5 and 5.6 on the Richter scale, but it was not immediately clear if these had caused additional damage.

26 January 1999 - Colombian rescuers clawed through rubble with their bare hands today, searching for victims of an earthquake that killed at least 628 people and injured nearly 3,000 others. Officials said the death toll in this provincial capital in Colombia's coffee growing heartland alone could exceed 2,000. The presidential palace in Bogota confirmed 628 dead across a disaster zone spanning 20 towns and villages in five provinces and declared the stricken region a disaster area. But officials and rescue workers on the ground said they did not rule out a dramatic rise in the toll, as it was difficult to give accurate figures while corpses were still being laid out on plastic sheets in a makeshift morgue at Armenia's sports stadium. Only 25 per cent of the rubble has been removed, Congress President Fabio Valencia said in Armenia. At least 432 people are known to have died in the city and the adjacent town of Calarca.

27 January 1999 - An earthquake jolted north-east Colombia today, but it was far less powerful than the quake of two days ago, authorities said. The latest quake, which occurred at 09.06, local time (14.06, GMT), registered 5.4 on the Richter scale and was strong enough to cause considerable damage in a populated area, according to the National Seismological Institute. But its potential for destruction was extremely limited because it took place 96 miles (155km) beneath the Earth's surface, the institute said. No injuries or material damage were reported. The epicentre of the quake was located 18 miles (28 km) south-east of Bucaramanga, capital of northern Santander province, in the Andean mountains near Colombia's northeast frontier with Venezuela. It followed at least 29 strong aftershocks from Monday's quake in Colombia's coffee growing heartland, which affected five central provinces. Authorities say at least 715 people were killed in Monday's quake.

27 January 1999 - Violence erupted today as anger over the slow pace of relief efforts triggered a frenzy of looting. Mobs driven by hunger broke into crumbling shops and supermarkets, crashing through metal shutters to cart off armfuls of powdered milk, bottled water, canned foods and even detergents. Riot police backed by army troops fired bursts of automatic gunfire into the air but were largely unable to quell the disturbances as mob rule took hold. The disturbances began early, when a small group of dishevelled quake survivors stormed a supermarket in a deeply impoverished southern part of the city. But by the afternoon, crowds of hundreds swelled into thousands in a rampage that engulfed the entire downtown area, Reuters correspondents and other witnesses said. Most of the rioting appeared to fizzle out ahead of a dusk to dawn curfew in the city which police vowed to vigorously enforce. Police said at least a dozen supermarkets were gutted by the looters, along with stores selling shoes, jewellery or virtually anything else of value. Armenia police commander Col. Dagoberto Garcia said the looting spree was not motivated by hunger alone since vandals, dozens of whom had been arrested, took virtually anything of value from the city's stores. In some areas shop-keepers armed with sticks or revolvers joined police to fight off gangs of thieves, leading to pitched battles between both sides. There was no immediate word on casualties, but exchanges of gunfire were seen and heard in several areas. Interior Minister Nestor Humberto Martinez said more than 95 tonnes of food, water and other supplies had been flown in since the disaster struck Armenia. He was unable to explain why the food had not yet been handed out. Frustration over the relief effort went beyond the lack of food. Even rudimentary equipment, like search lights to find people trapped in the ruins of thousands of buildings that collapsed in the quake, has been in short supply despite the world-wide response to Colombia's hour of need. "We have a big problem. Everything is bureaucracy. We are in meetings while thousands are dying under the rubble", said a senior state government official, adding that there was little co-ordination between the Red Cross, Civil Defence and fire-fighters on the ground.

28 January 1999 - Hundreds of people defied tear gas and heavily armed troops to steal food and clothing in this earthquake-ravaged city today, in a second straight day of looting. The disturbances by hungry and seemingly desperate townspeople came despite a beefed-up army presence in Armenia, a provincial capital devastated by the quake that killed at least 883 people when it tore into Colombia's coffee growing heartland on Monday. Gangs of looters roamed the city's streets, playing a cat-and-mouse game with security forces as they raced from street to street making forays into supermarkets and shops in the crumbling city centre. The mobs were no more than about 300-strong and the looting was less severe than yesterday, when thousands joined in riots across the downtown area and in the neighbouring community of Calarca. The city's main supermarket was set ablaze by one band of marauders, triggering two powerful explosions from what fire-fighters believed to have been gasoline storage tanks. The people inside were looting what was left from yesterday, said fireman Omar Tobon. As he spoke, a man suspected of starting the blaze was knocked to the ground by other firefighters and handed over to military police. More than 4,000 troops and police patrolled Armenia, after reinforcements were called in from guerrilla-infested neighbouring provinces last night on orders from President Andres Pastrana. National Police chief Gen. Rosso Jose Serrano said security forces had been instructed to avoid excessive force in stamping out the looting and no serious clashes were reported. Soldiers lobbed tear gas canisters at plunderers as they emerged from one food warehouse early today. Other troops shot bursts of automatic gunfire into the air in parts of the city to support shoe and clothing vendors wielding sticks and machetes against robbers. But the soldiers appeared unwilling to stop the looters. Poor planning left 95 tons of food aid sitting on the tarmac at Armenia's airport last night. Water was scarce and electricity out across the worst hit southern and central areas of Armenia today.

30 January 1999 - An uneasy calm returned to Armenia early this morning, after hungry mobs clashed with troops and ransacked stores in search of food and supplies in a third day of frenzied looting. Heavily armed police and soldiers, part of a massive military presence, patrolled the dark rubble-strewn streets that yesterday had been the scene of rampaging violence as frustration over chronic food and water shortages turned into chaos. But despite the strong security, groups of vigilantes armed with rifles, pistols and machetes gathered on several street corners to protect what few belongings they had following Monday's quake, which killed at least 938 people. Just before midnight yesterday ministers emerged from a four-hour meeting to announce that the government had adopted emergency economic powers and earmarked 500 billion pesos ($315 million) for initial aid to the mountainous central coffee growing region hit by the quake. Earlier in the day, thousands of people tired of waiting in line tore down a chain-link fence and stormed the main Red Cross storage facility to cart off bags of rice, toilet paper and foam mattresses intended for about 250,000 left homeless by the quake. Moments later, Armenia's city centre turned into a battle zone as looters used iron bars and hammers to prise open store shutters and pelted troops with bottles and debris. "It's very difficult. We cannot control this <$>\ldots<$> We're on the brink of anarchy", Armenia police chief Col. Dagoberto Garcia said as troops fired bursts of automatic gunfire over the heads of the crowd, which included elderly women and young children. Although tons of aid has poured into the disaster zone from other parts of the country and abroad, many people complained they had received no assistance since the quake four days ago. Eyewitnesses said at least two people were injured, one with a bullet wound to the stomach. Interior Minister Nestor Martinez said 120 troublemakers were being held at the city's bullring. Defence Minister Rodrigo Lloredo ordered in an extra 1,500 troops, raising the number of police and soldiers in the city of 280,000 to nearly 6,000. But as he toured a calmer downtown area late yesterday, he acknowledged there was little the security forces could do to subdue people driven to desperation by a bungled relief effort. "The army and police cannot hope to control a social problem with guns", he said. Despite yesterday's unrest, most people in Armenia were still involved in the grim search for loved ones and mourning their dead from Monday's quake, which levelled vast swathes of the city. But teams of Ålite international rescue workers, who arrived in the city two days ago, said they had been ordered to call off the search for possible survivors buried in the tons of debris. Experts said it was possible for people to survive under the rabble for up to ten days. But nobody has been pulled alive from the gutted buildings in Colombia's quake zone since Wednesday.

30 January 1999 - Troops took control of Armenia today after a spurt of looting by survivors of the earthquake that killed at least 938 people in western Colombia this week. Police and soldiers threw a tight cordon around the city centre, restricting the flow of pedestrians, and at least 200 troops brandishing Galil automatic assault rifles were bivouacked in the main market-place, the scene of violent clashes on Friday. Despite the heavy security presence, about 100 people smashed into quake-damaged stores earlier on Saturday, carrying off sacks of rice, beans and canned tuna as well as electrical goods such as television sets and fans. A squad of about 90 soldiers moved in to arrest several of the thieves, but in contrast to Friday, when angry mobs clashed with security forces in Armenia's centre, they did not fire warning shots or tear gas. Monday's quake, which measured 6.0 on the Richter scale, flattened hundreds of houses and buildings across five provinces in Colombia's mountainous central coffee growing region, leaving about 250,000 people homeless, more than half of them in Armenia. While acknowledging that it was difficult to subdue people driven to acts of desperation through hunger and poverty, security officials said many of the thieves were people from outside the disaster zone.

8 February 1999 - The deadly earthquake that tore through Colombia's central coffee growing region on 25 January could cost insurance companies here at least $200 million in claims, the head of a top insurance company said today. "Disaster claims could run to between $100 million and $200 million which is nothing in international terms but is huge for Colombia", Mario Pacheco, president of Seguros Colpatria, one of the top three in Colombia, said. He said such a pay-out would make the earthquake Colombia's costliest disaster ever in terms of insurance claims. Most of Colombia's insurance companies were reinsured with underwriters in Switzerland and Germany, other industry sources said. Pacheco said the cost of the last month's quake could have been much higher but that many individuals did not have their homes or property fully insured. The government has said it could cost between $1 billion and $1.5 billion to rebuild the coffee zone.

10 February 1999 - A press report, dated 10 February, states: An earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale shook the Antoqoia region in north-east Colombia today. No deaths or major injuries occurred, the national seismology institute reported. The strongest tremor was felt in the village of Zaragoza, 100 miles north of Medellin, the country's second largest city. The national emergency response agency said there were no serious repercussions after surveying the villages around the area hit by the quake. "This tremor is not linked in any way to the earthquake" that ripped through Colombia's coffee belt on 25 January, seismologist Erik Tuiran said. Some 70 after-shocks have been felt since that devastating earthquake.

18 February 1999 - Colombia's National Coffee Growers' Federation said today that up to 100,000 60kg bags of February coffee exports would be delayed due to last month's deadly earthquake in the central coffee growing region. Federation chief Jorge Cardenas said Colombia had been due to export 700,000 bags but that between 100,000 and 150,000 bags would not be shipped until March due to damage to coffee mills, processing plants and roads in the region. But the federation's technical manager Antonio Herron said the volume of the so-called Mitaca harvest, which begins in late March and provides about 40 per cent of annual output, would not be affected. The federation is planning to send mobile coffee mills, where farmers wash and dry their beans, to the coffee zone. Herron urged growers to use the mills and follow the federation's advice in order to avoid any loss of crop or drop in quality.

25 February 1999 - Colombia's top insurance firm Suramericana de Seguros estimated today it would pay out $19.4 million in claims for damage caused by the deadly earthquake that devastated the central coffee region in January. Nicanor Restrepo, head of Suramericana de Inversiones which controls Suramericana de Seguros, predicted the insurance division's liabilities would account for about 20 per cent of the total claims - now expected to run to about $100 million. Insurance companies had initially forecast claims would top $200 million. The bulk of the pay-out-about $16.2 million-will be covered by European Reinsurance companies, Restrepo said. 12 February 1999 - Afghanistan and Pakistan

Fifty people were killed and 200 injured when a strong earthquake shook Kabul and an area west of the city last night, Afghanistan's Taleban radio reported today. "It is with great regret we learn that in last evening's quake 50 people have been killed and 200 wounded", the radio report said, appealing for international aid. It said the deaths occurred in an area some 20 miles west of Kabul called Maida Shahr. The radio said it had no reports from other areas. The quake caused several mud built dwellings in the capital to collapse and panic among some residents who thought they were being attacked by US warplanes or missiles in Washington's search for Saudi militant Osama bin Laden, who is based in Afghanistan. The radio said a medical team had visited three villages in the affected region and people were "in urgent need of help". "We could not count how many houses were damaged, but lots of domestic animals were dead. I request the UN NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and Islamic governments to take part in helping the needy people and the earthquake-hit people in the area", the radio broadcaster said. A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said a team would visit the stricken area tomorrow to assess damage. It was the first official death toll announced by the Taleban since the tremors jolted Kabul and other cities in the region yesterday evening. The quake, which was felt as far away as the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, measured 5.5 on the open ended Richter scale and its epicentre was thought to be south-west of Kabul. Independent assessment of the earthquake damage was not immediately available. The news was broadcast after an evening curfew went into force and travellers could not reach the scene. Earlier, Kabul doctors said they had received four bodies from the area and were also treating ten injured people, several of whom were in critical condition.

A strong earthquake rocked parts of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan on Thursday, but there was no immediate report of damage or casualties. A seismic centre in the north-western Pakistani town of Peshawar, quoted by state television, said the tremor was centred some 180 miles north of there in Afghanistan and measured 5.5 on the Richter scale, powerful enough to cause heavy damage in a populated area. The cities jolted included the Pakistani capital Islamabad, Peshawar and the Afghan capital Kabul. In Kabul, many people fled their homes after the tremor. Some said they feared it could be a US missile strike like the one last August on bases of terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden in eastern Afghanistan.

13 February 1999 - A fresh tremor shook Kabul and surrounding areas today as rescue workers tried to assess the toll from a powerful earthquake which the Taleban militia said killed 50 and injured 200. Residents of the shell-pocked Afghan capital fled their homes when the tremor rocked buildings but there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries. The ruling Taleban authorities said that in three parts of Maidan Shahr district, some 30km west of Kabul, more than 50 people were killed and some 200 wounded. An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team visited the area today but spokesmen said it was too early to give an accurate picture of the damage. The ICRC said an initial survey found that one village out of six had been destroyed in the area. "Out of six villages assessed by the teams, one was 100 per cent destroyed while the scale of destruction of three others ranged from 50 to 80 per cent", an ICRC statement said. "Quite a number of people are scared to go back to their residence and sleep in makeshift tents or find a shelter under a bridge for the night", said ICRC official Pascal Hundt. The ICRC hopes to send more teams to the area and in particular to Sheikh Abaad, some 100km to the south-west of Kabul, which is thought badly affected. "A wide area has been affected and we will know the result after making our surveys to Sheikh Abaad and Logar and other places", the ICRC spokesman said. Dozens of in Maidan Shahr were forced to stay away from their houses due to aftershocks and fears the cracked mud homes might collapse. The quake has also affected Logar Province to the south of Kabul, which has not yet been surveyed. Reports from the area suggested more deaths but this could not be confirmed. The tremor, on Thursday night (11 February), measured 5.5 on the Richter scale and caused mild panic in Kabul, where several people were reported injured by collapsing mud built dwellings.

14 February 1999 - Thousands of Afghan families are without shelter in bitter cold after an earthquake which officials say killed at least 60 people. International relief efforts are hampered by the absence of foreign staff for UN agencies, who were pulled out of the country last year because of fears for their safety. Officials of the ruling Taleban Islamic movement said today the death toll had risen to 60 from 50 and a rough survey of three areas of the Maidan Shahr region south-west of Kabul found 500 people injured and 7,000 homes destroyed. International aid agencies have only surveyed 25 villages so far in the province and have still to map the disaster in Logar province, to the south of Kabul, which is reported to have been among the worst hit areas. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Cross Federation and Afghan Red Crescent Society began surveying Logar today and reported 30 deaths and 109 injuries. It says that 2,326 houses were damaged by the quake in Maidan Shahr, the centre of Maidan province, and its two districts of Chak and Said Abad. 29 March 1999 - India

At least ten people were killed in two north Indian towns by a strong cluster of earthquakes early today, and police expected more casualties as news trickled in from the remote mountainous region. The first earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, hit the region 35 minutes after midnight (19.05, UTC), officials said. The earthquake appeared to be the strongest in the seismically sensitive Himalayan foothills in 94 years. There was a series of aftershocks today ranging between 2.4 and 4.9 on the Richter scale, S.K. Srivastava, a senior official at the Indian Meteorological Department, said. "There were six aftershocks after the first earthquake at 00.35 hours", he said. The epicentre was in the Chamoli and Garhwal districts of Uttar Pradesh state. The US Geological Survey in Washington said the earthquake was "strong" and measured 6.6 on the Richter scale. Carol Didonato of the USGS said it occurred in the Himalayan foothills and was at a normal depth of about 33km. "Five prisoners in Chamoli town died when the police station they were detained in collapsed around them", Chamoli police superintendent Sridhar Pathak said. Pathak said three people were killed when a house was crushed in the nearby town of Gopeshwar in the Garhwal foothills of the Himalayas. Two others died in a neighbouring town. "Eight houses have collapsed in Chamoli district. Most of the impact has been in Chamoli and Gopeshwar", Sridhar said. Police reinforcements were sent to Chamoli from neighbouring districts to help in rescue operations, he said. "We are trying to first rescue people trapped in houses which have collapsed", Sridhar added. The United News of India news agency said the earthquake was felt in several north Indian towns and two tremors rocked the city of Chandigarh, capital of the state of Punjab. A seismological official in Mumbai said the earthquake struck about 1,350km to the north. Residents in the Indian capital New Delhi were jerked awake by two strong tremors. Furniture swayed and windows rattled. "The worst damaged area will be at least 50km in radius", Srivastava said. "The impact was felt even in peripheral areas about 500km distant." A senior police official in the district of Uttar Kashi said the tremor was severe. "It is difficult to assess the damage but in some distant places even radio and telephone communications have been cut off by the earthquake", he said. Officials said more casualties were expected as rescuers started to travel by road to the region.

29 March 1999 - At least 32 people were killed and 50 injured when a cluster of powerful earthquakes shook India's Himalayan foothills early today and officials expected the toll to rise sharply. As dawn broke, rescuers saw scenes of devastation with many houses reduced to rubble by the tremors, crushing people while they slept. Officials said they expected many more casualties because the first earthquake and a string of aftershocks had destroyed the vast majority of houses in Chamoli, a semi-urban area of around 50,000 people. "We suspect nearly 80-90 per cent of houses in this area have collapsed as a result of the earthquake", Yogendra Narain, chief secretary of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, said. He said that so far 32 bodies had been recovered and 50 people were reported injured, but the final death toll would probably be in the hundreds. Press Trust of India quoted Chamoli Police Superintendent Sridhar Pathak as saying 45 bodies had been recovered. Two air force helicopters were flying to the area, which is 5,000 feet above sea level, to survey the damage. Pathak said most of the victims died when their houses collapsed on top of them as they slept. He said police reinforcements were sent to Chamoli from neighbouring districts to help rescue operations. However, their efforts were hampered by a breakdown of communication links in the region, which is made up of pockets of small towns and villages of largely subsistence hill-farming. The United News of India news agency said the earthquake was felt in several north Indian towns and two tremors rocked the city of Chandigarh, capital of the state of Punjab. It also rocked villages in far-western Nepal but there were no reports of damage so far, police and residents said.

30 March 1999 - Indian rescuers searched shattered villages for survivors today after a powerful earthquake and aftershocks left at least 100 dead and 300 injured in a remote northern area. A day after the quake, rescuers said the extent of the damage remained unclear as hundreds of medical and army personnel tried to reach worst hit Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts in the hilly north of Uttar Pradesh state. The quake, which was felt across many parts of northern India, western Nepal and southern China early yesterday morning, brought houses tumbling down on thousands of people as they slept. Star Television said at least 14 villages were buried under rubble. Regional officials said yesterday most houses in the affected areas had been flattened. The Press Trust of India quoted officials from the Pauri Garhwal region as saying the death toll in Chamoli and Rudraprayag was at least 100, and the figure was likely to rise. The agency said 450 medical and army personnel were on their way to the mountainous area. Army helicopters flew sorties yesterday to assess the damage, and would carry food packets to quake-hit areas and evacuate the injured today, PTI said. Workers yesterday blasted rocks to clear the way for vehicles after the tremors, the largest measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, sent boulders tumbling down the mountains and blocking roads. The rescuers who had made it through were listening for the cries of people trapped under rubble in the worst-affected areas. The most severe tremor came just after midnight when most people were asleep in the region dotted with small towns and villages of largely subsistence hill farming. Officials said that while the intensity of yesterday's tremors was strong and the damage widespread, casualties could be lower because rattling of tin roofs in the disaster area had warned villagers of the danger. Officials originally feared the final death toll could run into hundreds, but later said this may not prove to be the case as the overall figure was rising relatively slowly.

31 March 1999 - A press report, dated today, states: Villages inaccessible by road awaited food, medicine and help to dig out from their shattered homes today, two days after a powerful earthquake killed at least 110 people in a remote mountain region of northern India. A strong aftershock measuring magnitude 5 during the night toppled more houses, severely injuring at least one person in the town of Nandprayag, police said today. A series of subsequent tremors, about one every hour until dawn, kept residents on the edge of panic. Medical teams drove as far as they could to treat the injured. Villagers from deep in the mountains walked to the road for treatment, while others were carried across narrow mountain tracks on stretchers. In Gopeshwar, a town of several hundred families, most people slept in the streets, in playgrounds and even on an army heli-pad, listening in fear as tremors dislodged more boulders from the hilltops and sent them crashing down scarred slopes.

1 April 1999 - An earthquake killed one man and injured several people yesterday in India's Himalayan foothills, site of a powerful tremor and aftershocks that killed more than 100 earlier this week, Press Trust of India (PTI) said. PTI said a 55-year-old man was killed when his house in Chamoli district collapsed due to the earthquake, which measured 4.8 on the Richter scale. The earthquake struck at 02.10 hours, 20.40, UTC. Chamoli was the epicentre of the earthquake on Monday (29 March).

5 April 1999 - Following appears in today's Vancouver Sun: A report from New Delhi states: An unexpected snowfall Friday (2 April) forced India's Air Force to cancel relief flights to remote Himalayan villages desperate for help after a powerful earthquake shook the area this week. An overcast sky throughout the region also hampered aid efforts by the military, which had managed to reach a number of towns in the rugged Himalayas that had been cut off by Monday's deadly quake. The quake, which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, toppled homes, set off landslides and killed at least 100 people, the Government said, although subsequent reports from outlying villages indicated that more than 110 people were killed. About 350 people were injured in the quake, which was centred in northern Uttar Pradesh state, along the Chinese border. Angry villagers near the town of Chamoli, close to the epicentre, surrounded an Army rescue team late Thursday and refused to let it leave, said Army Brigadier A.P. Sayyed. Seven large air force helicopters and four smaller Army aircraft dropped food packets and tents across the mountains, where about 2,500 houses were destroyed and many others were badly damaged. But to the victims who were left homeless by the powerful tremor, help was not coming fast enough. "Food is pouring in - they don't need food. They need tents, they need places to live", Sayyed said. Residents of towns and villages braved the cold sleeping on streets, playgrounds, grassy clearings and even army heli-pads, refusing to stay in their homes for fear of more tremors. Since Monday, the area has been rocked by nearly 50 strong and mild tremors. An aftershock measuring 4.8 hit the region early Friday, killing at least one person in Pipal Koti, not far from Chamoli, which bore the brunt of the earthquake, an Uttar Pradesh official said. "The aftershocks will continue for one or two months", Ravi Shankar, deputy director of the state-run Geological Survey of India, said in a telephone interview from Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh. The head of the Uttar Pradesh Government appealed to the federal Government for US$70 million in emergency funds. India's main opposition leader, Sonia Gandhi, flew to the worst hit areas Friday with senior leaders of her Congress party. Gandhi criticised the provincial and federal Governments for the slow pace of relief. Military officials said they were doing all they could, given the bad weather.

7 April 1999 - Two earthquakes of moderate intensity rocked India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh early today but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported. The earthquakes measuring 5.0 and 4.5 on the Richter scale occurred in the Garhwal region in the foothills of Uttar Pradesh, PTI said. A cluster of powerful earthquakes hit the Himalayan foothills on 29 March, killing more than 100 people and leaving thousands homeless. 23 April 1999 - South Africa

A strong earthquake hit the South African gold mining town of Welkom today, forcing the evacuation of 1,000 underground miners and causing widespread damage to buildings. The tremor, which measured 4.2 on the Richter scale, halted operations at a mine operated by AngloGold Ltd. The company said it was working to bring miners back to the surface through alternative mine shafts after power was cut. There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries caused by the quake, which struck overnight at 22.20, UTC, and shook the town for six seconds, or from a series of aftershocks which lasted up to three hours after the initial seismic shock. "There will be no production at the Matjhabeng mine today or tomorrow. We don't have any people trapped or injured", an AngloGold spokesman said. "We had to re-route workers to other shafts to bring them to the surface after a power failure." The miners, who were working the night shift, would be brought back to the surface during today, AngloGold said. In Welkom, situated in Free State province, buildings were reported to have suffered heavy structural damage and water and power supplies cut. "The emergency services are on the ground at the moment trying to restore services. The situation is under control as of now", police spokeswoman Elsabe Augoustides told the South African Press Association. Police have been deployed in the Free State province town to prevent looting.