Deadly quake hits Chechnya

An earthquake rocked the northern Caucasus killing at least 12 people in eastern Chechnya and injuring many more. Hundreds of inhabitants of the restive Russian province were left sheltering in tents on the eve of regional elections.


A strong earthquake centred in the restive Russian region of Chechnya killed at least 12 people, injured more than 100 others and caused widespread havoc on Saturday, an official said.

"Twelve victims died in the districts of Gudermes, Shali and Kurchaloy" in eastern Chechnya, a health ministry spokesman told AFP.

"It is not excluded that the toll is going to rise further," the official added.

The quake, which struck at around noon (0800 GMT), reverberated through the Caucasus mountains, causing severe damage to infrastructure including roads, power supplies and communications, Russian news agencies reported.

Measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale according to Strasbourg observatory estimates, it was felt in five regions of the Russian north Caucasus and as far away as neighbouring Georgia and Armenia.

"The road infrastructure has been seriously damaged" in several other districts including Nozhay-Yurt, Itum-Kali and Vedeno, Chechnya's deputy roads minister Yakha Makhmatkhadzhieva told Interfax news agency.

Earlier, ITAR-TASS news agency cited Chechen deputy emergency situations minister Akhmed Dzheirkhanov as saying that four people had been found dead in the Kurchaloy district and one in Gudermes.

One was a soldier who died when a wall collapsed, said the news agencies.

Some 52,000 people from three Chechen districts were left without electricity, according to the Russian emergency situations ministry, cited by Interfax.

Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov said he had ordered the creation of a special commission to assess the needs of people following the earthquake.

"We have received information on damage from various districts... each and every (victim) will receive the necessary help and support," said Kadyrov, quoted by Interfax.

The US Geological Institute, which put the strength of the quake at 5.3 on the Richter scale, said its epicentre was 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the Chechen capital Grozny, and 10 kilometres underground.

In Gudermes, residents living in high apartment buildings left their homes briefly due to fear of aftershocks, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

In addition to Chechnya, the earthquake was felt in the Russian provinces of Dagestan, North Ossetia, Ingushetia and in the Stavropol region.

"The underground shock was quite strong, and people felt it in the streets of Vladikavkaz," a witness in the North Ossetian city was quoted by Interfax as saying.

In Tbilisi, Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said the earthquake was recorded near the Georgian border but added that there had been no damage or injuries there.

In Yerevan, a spokesman for Armenia's seismology centre said two small quakes were registered in the north of the country, but no damages or injuries reported.

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