At least six people were killed and dozens of hospitals, schools and other buildings damaged when a strong earthquake rattled Chechnya and other parts of Russia’s North Caucasus today, emergency officials said.
The quake hit at around 1pm (0900 Irish time) and was centred north-east of the Chechen capital, Grozny, Russian emergency officials said. The US Geological Survey said the tremor had a magnitude of 5.3.
At least six people died in the quake and a series of aftershocks, which were felt throughout the North Caucasus and which rattled Grozny for more than 30 seconds, said Oleg Grekov, a regional Emergency Situations Ministry official. The toll was expected to rise.
Most were killed by falling debris or furniture in homes and apartment buildings, he added.
More than 60 people sought medical help in the hardest hit Chechen towns, which included Grozny and Gudermes, Mr Grekov said.
Russia’s Caucasus Mountain region only sees occasional earthquakes. Most buildings are not reinforced against severe structural shocks and even small quakes can cause serious damage.
Emergency officials said buildings in some districts saw serious structural damage, including hospitals in two Chechen districts.
Chechnya is one of Russia’s poorest regions, having suffered through two devastating wars in the past 15 years. Many people in the region are unemployed, and sporadic fighting between separatist rebels and federal and regional forces erupts regularly.