As global relief efforts were still focused on the devastating 6.6 earthquake that struck Iran last week, killing more than 30,000 and leaving some 40,000 homeless, seismologists were studying a new rash of temblors striking the planet’s “ring of fire.”

In Indonesia, a powerful earthquake shook the tourist islands of Bali and Lombok yesterday, injuring nearly 30 people and damaging dozens of buildings. On Lombok, 22 people were injured and one elderly man died, apparently of shock as a result of the quake, which the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said measured 6.1 on the Richter scale. The undersea quake struck shortly before dawn in the Straits of Lombok.

On Bali, at least seven people were hurt as they ran in panic from houses on the east of the island, a hospital spokesman said. The local hospital was also damaged.

Meanwhile, yesterday, a medium-intensity earthquake centered near Mexico’s Pacific Coast tourist spots was felt as far away as Mexico City, but caused no reported injuries.

“The only thing was panic among tourists in Acapulco,” officials of the Earthquake Alert System told local radio stations.

The quake, measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale, had its epicenter in the western state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast, the officials said.

Local radio stations said that poorly built homes suffered damage in Guerrero state and electricity was momentarily cut in the region. An aftershock reached 5 on the Richter scale. It was felt in the western and central parts of the country, including Mexico City, with 22 million inhabitants.

An undersea earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale rocked Taiwan yesterday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, seismologists said.

A quake with a magnitude of 6.6 jolted Taiwan Dec. 10 – the most powerful one to have hit the island in 2003 – but left only minor damage and injuries in some southern cities.

A minor earthquake struck California’s central coast early today, the largest in a series of aftershocks in the last two days in the vicinity of last month’s killer quake.

There were no reports of damage or injuries from the magnitude 4.2 quake.

Hundreds of small to minor aftershocks have struck since a magnitude-6.5 earthquake Dec. 22 killed two women in Paso Robles, about 25 miles to the east, and caused at least $200 million in damage.

Eight aftershocks recorded yesterday and early today have had a magnitude of 3 and higher, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The 4.2 quake hit at 2:48 a.m., following a magnitude-3.9 about three minutes earlier.

In Russia, seismologists have seen a 50 percent increase in the force of tremors hitting the southern mountains in the republic of Altay in the last few days. In September the area was hit by a 7.5 quake.

The new shocks hinder the reconstruction work that has started in Kosh-Agachskiy and Ulaganskiy districts, most badly hit by the first tremors. Over 1,000 homes were destroyed or damaged there, leaving homeless some 2,000 residents.

Five small tremors shook the Dead Sea area southwest of the Jordanian capital on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day but there were no reports of damage or casualties, seismologists said yesterday.

The first tremor occurred Wednesday afternoon and measured 3.3 on the Richter scale, Mohammed Gharaybeh, of the natural resources authority, told Petra news agency, adding that the Dead Sea area is subject “continuously” to such activity.

Four other tremors occurred in the evening and overnight, with the lowest measuring 2.5 on the Richter scale and the strongest 3.8, he added.

The Dead Sea is the lowest body of water on Earth. It currently lies at 1,366 feet below sea level after having dropped by three meters over the past three years.



U.S. Geological Survey map shows pattern of recent quakes.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there were at least seven earthquakes of a magnitude of 5.0 or greater around the world yesterday alone. Central California was hit by 21 quakes that day – none of them reaching 5.0.

On Dec. 27, a 7.3-magnitude quake hit southeast of the Loyalty Islands, a sparsely populated area about 1,000 miles east of Australia.

The day before that, the 6.6 earthquake hit southeast Iran.

Is there a connection between these quakes? No, says John Minsch, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo. The recent spate of quakes is just coincidence, said Minsch.

“They’re not even on the same fault line. There are just periods of time when they all seem to happen at once,” he said.

Does the spate of recent earthquakes give any indication the world is on the brink of an even bigger one? No again. Mensch told Disaster News Network: “Clusters of earthquakes offer no indication or prediction of what will happen.”

Though scientists can crunch numbers and offer statistics and probabilities regarding upcoming earthquakes, “that doesn’t give you a whole lot,” admitted Mensch, “in that we can’t say when and how big.”

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