Powerful quake strikes Colombia

Bogota (dpa) - A strong quake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale struck western Colombia early Monday injuring at least 30 people, destroying 500 homes and damaging numerous other buildings, officials said.

There was concern because rescue teams had been unable to reach remote areas where some of the worst damage was feared. The earthquake hit just after four in the morning local time (0906 GMT) off the Pacific coast.

President Alvaro Uribe ordered food and medicines sent to the province of Choco, the most seriously affected region. By early afternoon there had been no reports of fatal victims.

''Up to now there have only been reports of people with minor injuries from blows,'' he said, adding there was concern about communities remained out of reach. Choco is one of the country's poorest provinces.

Earlier, Julian Villaroel, director of the Colombian Institute of Geology and Mining, said that no reports of ''catastrophic'' damage had been received, but it was too early to assess the full extent of destruction. He said that two clinics in Cali were evacuated after they suffered damage in the quake, whose epicentre was located off Colombia's Pacific coast.

Another 10 buildings in Cali, Valle del Cauca province were also damaged.

Villaroel said the quake was felt strongly in southwestern and central Colombia.

In Pizarro, in Choco province, two people were badly hurt and several others suffered blows from falling objects and were taken to hospital. At least 30 buildings were damaged.

In Jamundi and Buenaventura, there were reports of damage to homes. In the Colombian capital Bogota the earthquake interrupted electricity for a few minutes.

Red Cross brigades and disaster care brigades were sent out to Siviru, where extensive damage was feared. One of the main highways joining western with central Colombia was blocked by a landslide set off by the quake.

Social Protection Minister Diego Palacios said 12 aftershocks had followed the earthquake.

The French Strasbourg Geological Watch detected an earthquake registering 7.0 on the open-ended Richter scale off the coast of Colombia.

The epicentre of the temblor, was located at 4.6 degrees latitude north and 77.6 degrees longitude west, or about 200 kilometres northwest of the coastal city of Buenaventura.

The region has been hit by several quakes registering over 6 on the Richter scale over the past 15 years.

On January 25, 1999 an earthquake struck central Colombia killing 1,000 people, injuring 10,000 more and leaving 200,000 homeless. dpa am ag

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 11/15/2004 15:09:50

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