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Quake kills 74 in Kyrgyz mountain village

world Updated: Oct 06, 2008 22:25 IST
Quake kills 74 in Kyrgyz mountain village

Rescuers toiled on Monday in a remote mountain village close to Kyrgyzstan's border with China searching for survivors of a powerful earthquake that killed at least 74 people, 41 of them children.

Hours later, a powerful tremor also struck a sparsely populated area of China's Himalayan region of Tibet, killing at least 30 people, Chinese state media reported.

The Kyrgyz quake, which measured 6.6 according to the US Geological Survey and was felt hundreds of kilometres (miles) around, razed the village of Nura, located in the Tian Shan mountains at an altitude of 2,000 metres (6,500 feet), said Kyrgyzstan's emergency situations minister, Kamchybek Tashiyev.

"The picture we saw was frightening. The village of Nura is fully destroyed, 100 percent," Tashiyev said.

The devastation in the village, from where rescuers were ferrying out the injured by helicopter, was graphically described by the head of Kyrgyzstan's Institute of Seismology, Kanatbek Abdrakhmatov.

"These were dilapidated houses, made of clay and straw, so they were totally destroyed," he told AFP.

An official in the press office of Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov confirmed the latest rise in the toll.

"The number of victims has reached 74," the official told AFP.

Deputy Health Minister Madamin Karatayev said the dead included 41 children.

More than 60 people needed treatment in hospital and 128 houses were ruined in the quake, which occurred overnight Sunday to Monday and produced several aftershocks.

Shockwaves were felt in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) away, while other tremors were felt both in Tibet and in northwest China.

Kyrgyz emergency officials said earlier more than 100 people had been injured in and around Nura, a village of some 960 residents close to the point where the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and China intersect.

Victims were air-lifted to the main regional city of Osh, 220 kilometres from the quake scene.

"The helicopter will make as many flights as needed to transport wounded people needing medical attention to the regional centre," said the emergencies minister Tashiyev.

Rescue workers and doctors were also treating people on the scene and the International Committee of the Red Cross had given victims food, tents and blankets, officials said.

However the rescue was hampered by the remoteness of the village and a lack of telephone links, while roads had become impassable in places due to the quake.

"Efforts to assist the victims are being complicated by the distance of the villages... from hospitals, by a lack of communications and by the destruction of the roads," said health ministry official Dinara Sagynbayeva.

The US Geological Survey said the epicentre of the earthquake was 60 east-southeast of the village of Sary-Tash at a depth of 27.6 kilometres.

An aftershock of magnitude 5.1 hit the region just over two hours later, the USGS said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev offered his condolences in a telegram to his Kyrgyz counterpart Kurmanbek Bakiyev and a Russian rescue plane was due to deliver tents and other aid to Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday.

Medvedev was himself due in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday for a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a group of former Soviet republics.

Kyrgyzstan, a landlocked and mountainous nation of five million people, is one of the poorest states of the former Soviet Union and lies in a seismically active region.

Monday's deadly quake in Tibet struck an area about 85 kilometres (50 miles) west of the Tibetan capital of Lhasa at 4:30 pm (0830 GMT), the US Geological Survey said.

US seismologists initially put the magnitude of the quake at 6.6, but later revised that down to 6.3.