July 24, 2005

Strong quake hits confidence in India’s Andamans

PORT BLAIR, India (Reuters) - A powerful earthquake that
hit India's Andaman and Nicobar islands at the weekend has
shaken the confidence of people in the remote chain, although
it caused no damage or casualties, residents said on Monday.

Sunday's 7.0 earthquake in the Andamans, which came seven
months after the 9.15 earthquake that caused the killer
tsunami, led to a tsunami warning in Thailand, but that was
soon withdrawn.

There have been 345 aftershocks of the Dec. 26 tremor which
have rippled through the remote Indian Ocean archipelago,
forcing thousands to flee the island chain.

"We had decided to stay back after the tsunami but every
shock forces my family to rethink that decision," said Partho
Burman, a music teacher who lives with his wife and two small
children in Port Blair, capital of the island chain.

"If things continue like this, we better go back to our
native place in Kolkata (Calcutta) as many of my friends have
done," Burman, who came from Calcutta in 2003, said on Monday.

Others on the islands, which lie on an undersea faultline
that runs to Indonesia in the south, said they were worried but
still undecided what to do.

"The aftershocks were less in the past two months but it
seems to be starting again. We are really worried about the
fate of these islands," Smriti Kana Saha of Ranjat village in
the Middle Andaman island told Reuters by phone.

Ranjat lies some 190 km (120 miles) north of Port Blair.

"My family and I were outside our house all night because
of fear," said Saha, who works for a telecoms carrier.

Indian officials did not put out a tsunami alert on Sunday
night after the earthquake -- with its epicenter in the sea
near the southern Nicobar region of the island chain -- saying
the tremor was not strong enough to cause a tsunami.

About 3,500 people died in the Andaman and Nicobar islands
in the Dec. 26 tsunami and some 2,000 remain missing.

Sunday's earthquake was felt in the southern Indian city of
Madras in the mainland as well as other parts of south India
and the Naval meteorological office in Port Blair said it was
the second biggest aftershock after the Dec. 26 earthquake.