17 March 2005

Undersea earthquake moved islands

Three popular beach resorts were among seven islands on India's Andamans archipelago that shifted southwestwards when a giant earthquake hit on December 26, geologists said on Wednesday.

The state-run Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) found that six inhabited islands and one which boasts a volcano had moved "a few metres" after the undersea quake that triggered deadly tsunamis.

"Preliminary estimates from the GPS (global positioning satellite systems) survey around Andaman and Nicobar suggest the islands have shifted southwestward by a few metres," CESS seismologist CP Rajendran told reporters.

"Also some parts of the Andaman and Nicobar islands subsided and some got uplifted," the study said, adding that eastern districts of the Andamanese capital Port Blair sank deeper into the sea after the tremors shook the 550 volcanic islands.

In contrast, the western coast of the North Sentinel Island, home to Stone Age tribal aborigines, rose by half a metre.

More than 2 000 poeple died and 5 640 others are still listed as missing on the archipelago.

The tsunamis killed more than 16 000 people in India and more than 273 000 around the Indian Ocean region, from Indonesia to East Africa.

The giant waves also wiped out 239 000 homes, wrecked 84 000 boats and destroyed 22 750 hectares of crops in India, junior home minister S. Regupathy told parliament on Wednesday.


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