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Earthquakes claim high toll in 2003

LAST YEAR was the deadliest for earthquakes since 1990, with 43,819 deaths, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

This number was a dramatic rise from the 1,711 in 2002 but did not reach the tragic level of 51,916 fatalities in 1990.

The 'strong' magnitude 6.6 earthquake that hit Bam, Iran on Boxing Day 2003 was responsible for at least 41,000 deaths. A similar number of deaths were caused when a 7.7 earthquake rocked western Iran in 1990.

Yet the biggest earthquake of last year, the 8.3 magnitude event that rattled Hokkaido region in Japan on September 25, did not kill anyone. About 600 people were injured in the only 'great' quake of 2003.

California experienced a 6.5 magnitude quake on December 22 in San Simeon. Two people were killed when a building collapsed.

The USGS detects 50 earthquakes each day or almost 25,000 a year. On average, there are 18 major earthquakes (magnitude 7.0 to 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or higher) each year. The largest earthquake recorded was a 9.5 that killed 2000 in Chile in 1960 and left 2M people homeless.

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