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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 5) - Nearly 20 powerful earthquakes have rocked the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia – the latest, on Sunday, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale - since late December.

The Institute of Research and Development says in all about 19 quakes measuring more than five-point-three on the Richter scale have been recorded about 200 kilometers south southeast of Mare Island in the Loyalty Islands archipelago since December 25.

Officials say two of the tremors had a magnitude of more than seven on the Richter Scale, and could be felt by people living on Mare and in certain parts of New Caledonia's capital, Noumea.

Despite the upsurge in seismic activity, experts say the risk of an earthquake causing major destruction in the region is slight.

January 6, 2004

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