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Strong earthquake rocks Santo Domingo.

September 23, 2003, Santo Domingo - A strong earthquake shook the Dominican Republic on September 22nd, killing two people, toppling a building and forcing thousands to evacuate, authorities said.

The National Emergency Committee reported that one man, Ramon Antonio del Orbe, 65, had died from a heart attack when the 6.5-magnitude quake hit.

The earthquake was so strong it was felt as far away as western Puerto Rico.

In the busy northern coast resort area of Puerto Plata, part of the Reserve Bank building collapsed. The local Roman Catholic church and several businesses sustained serious damage. "The earthquake was strong and shook the hotel but there's no serious damage here or on the street," said Salvador Roheleo, a manager at the Puerto Plata Beach Resort. "We just have a lot of nervous guests."

Thirteen people were taken to local hospitals in the town of Imbert with multiple contusions.

The epicenter was located in the north-western part of the island, according to committee director Radhames Lora Salcedo. The committee said another person died but gave no further details.

In Santiago, authorities assessed damages in local businesses and evacuated hospitals. "The hospitals cannot be occupied until inspections can be made," Lora Salcedo said.

Educational structures were one of the most affected... about 18,000 students doesn't have schools to learn now and they're being relocated.

The highway between Santiago and Puerto Plata is littered with debris and stone due to the tremors. Thousands of residents in the northern provinces have left their homes while awaiting a government inspection.

Multiple aftershocks continued for eight hours, the strongest of which had a magnitude of 5.1 on the Richter scale.

Puerto Rico has opened a relief center at the Pedrin Zorrilla Coliseum in Hato Rey to aid earthquake victims at the Dominican Republic.


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