07/24/2006, 00.00
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Hotels and homes empty as tremors continue

by Mathias Hariyadi

Yesterday a strong tremor was recorded off Sulawesi Island and there have been more evacuations along the coast. The authorities have pledged to install new, more efficient anti-tsunami alert systems while terrorized residents leave their homes and tourists cancel their bookings.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – There is no let up in tremors in Indonesia, where people are living in fear and tourists have started to cancel their bookings, leaving hotels and beaches empty amid persistent tsunami alerts. The latest episode took place yesterday when a quake marking 6.6 on the Richter scale was recorded off Sulawesi Island. Lesser tremors were recorded in Nias – north of Sumatra – Bali and the Moluccas. Local authorities, afraid of a possible tsunami, have ordered the evacuation of coastal areas, while works have got under way to boost alarm systems against freak waves in the country's highest-risk areas.

In Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province, the authorities will add six sirens to the current, "incomplete" system, said the provincial government, Gamawn Fauzi. He promised greater efficiency in the coordination of any future crises, especially in the delivery of humanitarian and medical aid, and in the evacuation of residents. Other than stepping up anti-tsunami drills, works will be undertaken to avoid congestion of traffic caused by people escaping.

The neighbouring province of Bengkulu shares similar concerns. The governor, Augustin M. Najamuddin, said 200 sirens will be set up along the coast, together with an anti-tsunami observatory on Enggano Island.

The initiatives of the different provinces follow the orders of the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhyono, to speed up the installation of alarm systems necessary to avoid further tragedies like the one that struck Cilacap and Pangandaran, Java Island, on 17 July, where a freak wave generated an underwater earthquake that killed more than 650 people.

A quake that struck Sunda Bay two days later did not claim any lives but it did deal a harsh blow to the local tourism industry. Along the beaches of Anyer – Serang regency – members of the terrorized population have left their homes and hotels have emptied: many tourists have cancelled bookings and there are rumours of hotel managers sending their employees home because of a "shortage of guests".

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See also
Tsunami alert still high, warn experts
Collective fear in Jakarta: rumours of new quakes spread by SMS
More than 260 people killed by tsunami
Earthquake spreads panic and death, but no tsunami yet
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