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Sunday, 18 June, 2000, 20:27 GMT 21:27 UK
Quake hits Indian Ocean islands
Cocos North Island
Paradise islands: Shaken but not damaged
A earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale has hit the Indian Ocean, near the Cocos Islands, according to measurements by the US Geological Survey.

The earthquake struck at 2114 local time (1444 GMT) about 175km (110 miles) southeast of the islands, which are Australian territory.

Cocos beach
Coconuts fell, but there was little other damage

Significant shaking was felt in the islands but there was no structural damage, according to Sergeant Steve Lane of the Cocos Islands Federal Police.

"We're basically a small group of islands with a hell of a lot of coconut trees," he said, adding that large numbers of coconuts had fallen to the ground during the quake.

The police sent out patrols, but saw no significant damage.

The earthquake was a unique phenomenon in the islands - even elderly residents could not remember anything like it, Sergeant Lane said.

A tsunami warning was put out for the north-western coast of Australia, about 3,000km (1,900 miles) to the east of the Cocos Islands, but no unusual waves have been reported.

Oil and copra

Only two of the Cocos Islands are inhabited, with a total population of about 600.

They were first known as the Keeling Islands, after being sighted by the explorer Captain William Keeling in 1609.

In 1825 Captain John Clunies Ross settled on the islands, and started trading in copra and coconut oil.

A former British dominion, the islands were sold to Australia by a descendant of Captain Ross in 1978 for A$6.25 million.

In 1984, the indigenous Malay residents voted to become a full part of Australia.

There is a nature reserve on the islands, home to the red-footed booby bird, and the Cocos enjoy a modest level of tourism, despite their inaccessible location.

The Cocos Islands lie about 1,000km (660 miles) southwest of Sumatra, where a magnitude 7.9 earthquake on 4 June killed about 100 people, injured 1,900 and ruined thousands of homes.

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See also:

05 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
The Earth's Ring of Fire
05 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Killer waves so hard to detect
06 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Sumatra: Caught between two plates
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