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Earthquake Strikes, Mud Buries House, 6 Feared Dead

October 19, 1992

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ The second severe earthquake to hit Colombia in two days rocked cities Sunday and set off an eruption at thermal baths in a northwestern village, burying a house in mud and raining burning rock.

Four people were missing and feared dead, and scores were injured after mud and steam blasted from a mountain near the baths at San Pedro de Uraba, 124 miles northwest of Medellin, town officials said.

Two other people were reported killed elsewhere in the South American country. Early radio reports of 10 deaths could not be confirmed.

″When the earth started shaking we saw a sudden blaze of fire that shot up from the volcano,″ San Pedro councilman Teofilo Santana told the RCN radio network.

″It burned and split the earth about a kilometer around the volcano.″

It could not immediately be determined whether the eruption was volcanic, as some initial reports said, or thermal. Before the eruption, the mountain had oozed mud and steam, which formed pools around its base and attracted bathers.

The quake measured 7.2 on the Richter scale and struck at 10:12 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo. But only minimal damage was reported in most of the country.

At the same time, 1,500-foot Cacaqual Mountain near San Pedro erupted.

Local radio reported that many of those injured may have been bathers.

In Bogota, the capital city of 6 million, and in Medellin, a city of 3 million, people ran out of shaking buildings into the streets. Traffic lights swung wildly.

″The lamps were swinging from the ceiling and some of the pictures fell off the walls,″ an employee of Bogota’s Tequendama Hotel told Crypton television news.

Preliminary findings by the Seismic Institute in Cali, Colombia, said the quake lasted two minutes and was centered about 185 miles northwest of Bogota - in the same area as Saturday’s earthquake, which measured 6.6 on the Richter scale.

The Red Cross said a child was killed when a school building collapsed in the northwestern village of Vigia del Fuerte, 100 miles from Medellin, and a woman died of a heart attack in the southern city of Pereira.

San Pedro Mayor Alcides Caballero told RCN radio that a 60-year-old man, a woman and her two children are missing. Unconfirmed radio reports claimed the four were dead.

Caballero said 37 people were injured, most suffering from second-degree burns. Some were transferred to regional hospitals.

Seven houses burned to the ground, he said. Nelson Poveda, an official at the mayor’s office, said the quake cracked roads and cut off traffic to and from town.

Resident Antonio Claros initially told Radio Caracol that ″several houses are buried in the mud and we don’t know how many dead there are.″

In Bogota, people were still milling in the street two hours after the quake, clutching their belongings, afraid to return home.

Aftershocks, registering up to 5.5 on the Richter scale, rippled through the country hours later, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake was felt from the north Caribbean Coast south to the Amazon River, according to RCN radio.

Other reported injuries included two people hurt when a lamppost fell on them in Puerto Tejada, outside Cali, and four people struck when a roof in a northern Medellin suburb fell.

The earthquake Saturday partially destroyed the fishing village of Murindo, 90 miles northwest of Medellin. No deaths or injuries were reported, but as many as 500 people were left homeless and the medical clinic was severely damaged, Gov. Juan Gomez said.

Colombia, situated on three shifting geological plates, has suffered deadly earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the past.

The last major eruption, on Nov. 13, 1985, killed 23,000 people, mainly in the town of Armero. The Nevado del Ruiz volcano melted part of a glacier, sending a 100-foot-high wall of mud and rock down on the town.

A temblor measuring 7.9 killed 800 people in Colombia and Ecuador in 1979.

Hans Meyer at the U.S. Geological Survey said Colombia should be prepared for more aftershocks in the coming days and weeks.

The Richter scale is a gauge of energy released by an earthquake, as measured by the ground motion recorded on a seismograph. Every increase of one number means the ground motion is 10 times greater. A quake of magnitude 7 can cause widespread, heavy damage.

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