Thu, May 29, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Another earthquake shocks Algeria


Three people were believed killed and 187 injured when a new earthquake hit Algeria on Tuesday, flattening some buildings and terrifying Algerians less than a week after a quake killed 2,200 people, officials said.

State radio said several buildings collapsed in the towns of Zemmouri and Boumerdes as the new quake struck the capital Algiers and a Mediterranean coastal strip to the east that suffered widespread death and destruction in last Wednesday's disaster.

Officials said the quake measured 5.8 on the Richter scale and that its epicenter was in Zemmouri, some 50km east of Algiers. The epicenter of last Wednesday's quake was near Zemmouri.

"Unconfirmed reports from witnesses indicated that three people were killed when they were searching for their belongings in a 15-storey block apartment that completely collapsed in Reghaia," said Deputy Interior Minister Mohamed Guendil.

He told Algerian state television people had been injured "due to panic". Most of the injuries occurred in Algiers, Zemmouri and Boumerdes.

"Families rushed out of buildings. Everyone took to the streets. In central Algiers people were scared, real scared, holding their children and babies in their arms," a correspondent in the capital said.

Authorities urged people to be calm. "Don't panic. It's a strong aftershock [from last Wednesday's quake]," said an official from Algeria's Geophysical, Astronomical and Astro-physics Research Center.

The latest official toll from last Wednesday's earthquake is 2,218 dead and 9,497 injured.

Boumerdes suffered more than half of the deaths in the quake. An estimated 15,000 people were left homeless.

That quake caused large-scale death and destruction in Algiers and towns to the east along the Mediterranean coast.

Shock and grief gave way to anger at the weekend as Algerians turned on the Algerian government, accusing it of doing little to help the homeless and of turning a blind eye to the corner-cutting of unscrupulous builders in an earthquake-prone area.

Crowds chanted "assassin" and threw stones as President Abdelaziz Bouteflika toured devastated towns.

State television said the president had ordered an inquiry to find out why so many buildings had collapsed like packs of cards.

With the hunt for survivors from last Wednesday's earthquake over, health and aid workers replaced foreign rescue teams on Monday as the nightmare from the country's worst earthquake in two decades dragged on for thousands consigned to squalid camps.

Elite search teams leaving the country crossed paths with foreign aid workers who were flying in with shelter, food and medicine.

With dozens unaccounted for under sandwiched floors of apartment blocks, the body count looked likely to climb.

There was also the risk that disease could kill some of those who survived the quake.

Health workers have been fanning out across Mediterranean coastal areas east of the capital to prevent any outbreak of water-borne diseases.

Last Wednesday's earthquake was Algeria's deadliest since the 1980 El Asnam quake, which killed 3,000 people. El Asnam has since been rebuilt as the city of Chlef.

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