Feb. 1, 2005

Ecuador trembles after hundreds of tremors

QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) -- Hundreds of tremors off the coast of Ecuador in the past 11 days have sparked fears that a bigger quake could strike soon.

"This isn't normal," the director of Geophysics Institute at the National Polytechnic School, Hugo Yepez, told Reuters on Monday, "This area is capable of producing big earthquakes. Very big earthquakes."

About 320 tremors of more than 4.0 on the Richter scale have shaken the Pacific Ocean off the port of Manta since January 20.

So far no one has been reported hurt but some small fishing villages have seen damages. An earthquake measured at 7.9 on the Richter scale battered the Pacific city of Guayaquil in 1942, although fragmentary reports from the time did not mention casualties.

The shape of Ecuador's coastline would prevent the formation of a tsunami like the one which smashed into parts of Asia in December, experts say.

Copyright 2005 Reuters.