JAKARTA, Indonesia – A powerful aftershock from last month's tsunami (search)-triggering earthquake and another quake in central Indonesia (search) sparked panic Monday in at least two countries where people feared another giant killer wave.
The two quakes, both magnitude 6.3, caused little damage and no reported injuries, and neither generated a tsunami. But they jangled nerves across the Indian Ocean (search) region hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami, which killed at least 162,000 people.
Panic briefly spread through the streets of the Indian coastal city of Madras after residents felt an earthquake centered in the Bay of Bengal, about 930 miles away near the Andaman Islands. People could be seen running in the city.
Samuel Cherian, the senior police officer in Campbell Bay, the southernmost island in the Andaman archipelago, felt the quake but said there were no reports of any unusual sea surges on the islands.
The quake, centered 1,080 miles southeast of Calcutta, was considered an aftershock of last month's much more powerful magnitude-9.0 quake, seismologists said.
"It is an aftershock. It occurred on the same fault as the Dec. 26 earthquake," said A.K. Shukla, a director of the government-run Meteorology Department in New Delhi.
Earlier Monday, a pre-dawn quake under Indonesia's Sulawesi island sent thousands of people running to higher ground in the city of Palu. About 30 wooden houses and some shops were damaged, police said.
"They were shouting 'Water! Water!' because they feared waves," said Dr. Riri Lamadjido, at the city's main Undata Hospital, which did not treat any people injured during the temblor.
The quake was centered about 25 miles south-southwest of Palu, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Both quakes registered a magnitude of 6.3, the USGS said.
Further reflecting the pervasive jitters in the region, thousands of people in western Thailand fled their homes early Monday after rumors spread that an earthquake had cracked four major dams.
The governor of Kanchanaburi province — which was not hit by the tsunami — went on the radio and the head of the government agency in charge of dams held a news conference to reassure people that the rumors were false and to urge them to return home.
Meanwhile, U.N. officials said the number of relief camps in Indonesia's Aceh province has dropped by about 75 percent in the past week, with most people moving in with relatives and a few returning to villages along the battered west coast.
The "dramatic decrease" in the camps — from 385 to less than 100 — was good news because some survivors can become too dependent on outside help, said Joel Boutroue, head of U.N. relief efforts in Aceh.
Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Monday some European nations have complained about the delays in returning the bodies of their citizens who died in the tsunami, and he promised to try to speed up the process. The disaster killed hundreds of Swedes, Germans, Britons and other foreigners vacationing at southern Thailand's beach resorts.
"I have received phone calls from several European countries demanding repatriation of the bodies of their beloved. We have to hand over the bodies to the relatives as soon as we can," he said outside his Bangkok office. He did not identify the nations.
The process of identifying the dead and finding the missing has been slow and difficult. Many corpses were found in water and had decomposed in the tropical heat.
To smooth the delivery of aid to hundreds of thousands of survivors, governments in Indonesia and Sri Lanka were trying to ease tensions with indigenous rebel movements that threatened to hold up supplies.
Indonesian officials agreed to meet with Aceh rebel leaders this week in Finland to negotiate a cease-fire in the province, where separatists have been fighting for an independent homeland for nearly 30 years, according to Finland's Crisis Management Initiative, headed by former President Martti Ahtisaari.
Despite an informal cease-fire since the disaster, there have been isolated reports of fighting, raising concerns about the security of relief operations in Aceh.
In Sri Lanka, a top Norwegian diplomat held talks Monday with a Tamil Tiger rebel leader to try to resolve a dispute over aid distribution on the island nation, where 31,000 people died in the tragedy and another 1 million were displaced.
The Tamil Tigers accuse the government of obstructing aid deliveries to rebel-controlled areas in Sri Lanka's north and east — allegations the government denies.
The meeting came a day after Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen held similar talks with government officials to discuss creating a joint body to ensure equitable aid distribution.