Monday, May 26, 2008

Colombia quake: Death toll rises to 11

The Red Cross said the death toll from a powerful earthquake in central Colombia has risen to 11, as aftershocks shook the region.

Walter Cote, director of the country's aid organization, on Sunday told reporters that 54 people were seriously injured as a result of Saturday's 5.5 quake, which also badly damaged about 400 homes.

Among the dead were five people killed on the road between Bogota and the city of Villavicencio, capital of the Meta department. Three of the five were members of the same family -- a father, mother and son -- whose car was struck by falling rocks.

The road knocked out by the quake is an important connection that links the center of the country with the eastern region and is heavily used by tourists.

The earthquake struck at 0050 IST on Saturday with the epicenter in El Calvario in the department of Meta.

A total of 4,181 were injured in the departments of Cundinamarca, Boyaca, Meta and Casanare, according to the Red Cross.

Since Saturday's quake, the state seismological service registered numerous aftershocks, with the strongest at 4.1 on the open-ended Ricther scale at 4:39 am local (1509 IST) with the epicenter 50 kilometers from Bogota.

The earthquake, which shook this Andean capital for several seconds, was the strongest temblor to jolt the capital in a decade.

Bogota Mayor Samuel Moreno said on Saturday the capital city of seven million people suffered only minor damage and he considered the emergency over, although police and firefighters remained on alert.

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