Earthquake kills 72 people in Kyrgyzstan

A powerful quake strikes the mountains of Central Asia, killing 5872 people and destroying more than 100 buildings in one village.

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BISHKEK // Rescuers raced to reach a remote village in Kyrgyzstan today after a strong earthquake killed at least 72 people in a mountainous area near the border with China, officials said. The quake on Sunday, which measured magnitude 6.6 according to the US Geological Survey, rased the village of Nura in the isolated Alaisky district, high in the Tian Shan mountain range. "Right now the number of dead is 72," Turatbek Dzhunuchaliyev, the deputy emergency situations minister, said at a press conference. He added that more than 60 people needed urgent hospitalisation and 128 houses had been ruined in the quake, which was felt as far away as the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, about 400km away. Emergency officials said earlier that more than 100 people had been injured, mostly in Nura, a village of 960 residents close to the point where the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and China intersect. "The picture we saw was frightening. The village of Nura is fully destroyed, 100 per cent," said Kamchybek Tashiyev, emergency situations minister. "These were dilapidated houses, made of clay and straw, so they were totally destroyed," Kanatbek Abdrakhmatov, head of the Institute of Seismology in Bishkek, said. Victims were being ferried by helicopter from Nura to the main regional city of Osh, 220km away. "The helicopter will make as many flights as needed to transport wounded people needing medical attention to the regional centre," Mr Tashiyev said. 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, Mr Dzhunuchaliyev said. But rescue efforts were being hampered by the remoteness of the village and a lack of telephone links with it, while roads had become impassable in some places, officials said. "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 Dinara Sagynbayeva, a health ministry official. The US Geological Survey said the epicentre of the earthquake was 60 east-south-east of Sary-Tash at a depth of 27.6km. An aftershock of magnitude 5.1 hit the region just over two hours later, the USGS said. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, offered his condolences in a telegram to Kurmanbek Bakiyev, his Kyrgyz counterpart, and ordered Russian rescuers to assist the relief effort, the Kremlin said in a statement. Mr Medvedev was to visit Kyrgyzstan on Thursday for a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a grouping of former Soviet republics. The meeting would go ahead on schedule despite the quake, Mr Bakiyev's office said. Kyrgyzstan, a landlocked and mountainous country of five million people, is one of the poorest states of the former Soviet Union and lies in a seismically active region. In February 2003, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in north-west China, with an epicentre close to Kyrgyzstan in the foothills of the Tian Shan mountains, claimed 268 lives and rased 20,000 houses. Soon after Sunday's quake, a moderate tremor with a magnitude of 5.7 hit China's far north-west, just over the border with Kyrgyzstan. Two more earthquakes were recorded today, measuring 6.6 and 5.1 respectively, in the Himalayan region of Tibet, the US Geological Survey said. Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, said 30 people died after the first quake struck, and that houses had collapsed near the epicentre. * Agence France-Presse