BISHKEK, October 6 – A strong earthquake hit Kyrgyzstan close to the country’s border with China, killing 60 people and setting off a race to help a remote village where victims were concentrated, officials said Monday.
The quake late Sunday measured a magnitude 6.6, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS) and destruction was concentrated on Alaisky district on the mountainous border. At least one big aftershock was also reported.
"According to preliminary figures, 60 people died and more than 100 local residents were injured to various degrees," Kyrgyz Emergency Situations Minister Kamchybek Tashiyev told journalists.
The ministry said 120 houses had been flattened in the quake, which hit the Alaisky district of southern Kyrgyzstan late Sunday evening.
Destruction was concentrated in Nura, a village of some 960 people on the border with China. "The picture we saw was frightening. The village of Nura is fully destroyed, 100 percent, there are many injured," Tashiyev said.
The quake struck at 9:52 pm (1552 GMT), the USGS said but Kyrgyz officials described how rescue efforts were being hampered by the remoteness of the village. There were no telephone links with Nura.
"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.
USGS said the quake epicentre was 60 kilometres (35 miles) southeast of Sary-Tash at a depth of 27 kilometres (17 miles).
An aftershock of magnitude 5.1 hit the region just over two hours later, USGS said.
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.
In February 2003, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in northwest China, with an epicentre close to Kyrgyzstan in the foothills of the Tianshan Mountains, claimed 268 lives and razed 20,000 houses.