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Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page C14

Indonesian Earthquake Brings Tsunami Fears

• A major earthquake yesterday in Indonesia had people fleeing for fear of a second tsunami devastating the region.

The quake, centered near the Indian Ocean island of Sumatra, toppled buildings and cut off power in some areas. Geologists said the quake was an aftershock of the Dec. 26 quake and tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in 12 countries.

Pandas are picky about heir bamboo, preferring the non-flowering kind. (Jason Lee -- Reuters)

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Because yesterday's quake occurred late at night, officials said it could take several hours to count the quake's victims and assess the damage.

In Banda Aceh, the Indonesian town hardest hit in December, residents awakened by the earth shaking jumped into vehicles and rushed for higher ground, taking no chances.

Officials later called off tsunami warnings in Sri Lanka and Thailand when no big wave emerged.

Pandas Bamboozled

• Blooming bamboo is threatening some giant pandas.

More than 100 pandas at a reserve in western China are at risk of hunger or starvation, officials said, because the bamboo plants they eat are dying -- a natural cycle that happens every 60 years or so.

Pandas get most of their nutrition from arrow bamboo. When the plant enters its dying phase, it forms flowers, after which the pandas won't eat it. A new crop takes about 10 years to mature.

Bamboo now flowering at a reserve in Gansu directly threatens 22 of the park's 102 pandas. Park rangers are moving hungry bears, and villagers have been told not to harm pandas that show up looking for food.

Bamboo also is starting to bloom in Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces, home to the rest of China's estimated 1,590 wild pandas.

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