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Uzbekistan quake kills at least 13, wounds dozens
by Staff Writers
Tashkent (AFP) July 20, 2011

A 6.2 quake killed at least 13 people and wounded dozens as it tore down old houses in a remote border region in Central Asia's volatile Fergana Valley, Uzbek officials said Wednesday.

The quake struck at 1:35 am (1935 GMT Tuesday) with the epicentre just inside Kyrgyzstan's Batken region, the US Geological Survey said, but it appeared that neighbouring Uzbekistan bore the brunt of the damage.

The quake struck the border region at a depth of just 9.2 kilometres, rocking Fergana, a city of some 200,000 residents just 42 kilometres (25 miles) from the epicentre.

"As a result of the earthquake, some old buildings were destroyed in the Fergana region," the Uzbek emergencies ministry said in a statement. "According to initial information, 13 people were killed as a result of the damage to the houses."

"The emergency services provided medical assistance to 86 people and 35 people were taken to nearby hospitals," the statement said.

It said that the quake registered 5.0 even in the capital Tashkent, some 235 kilometres away from the epicentre. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has ordered measures to be taken to overcome the disaster.

"The people were scared and went out onto the streets. It lasted for a few seconds," said Abdullah, a resident of Fergana city, who did not want to give his family name.

"There are cracks on the ceiling and the paint has started to fall off in my home."

Another Fergana resident, Sukhrob, said the tremors had stopped, but people were frightened of returning home.

Residents of the Kyrgyz city of Osh, the main city in the country's south, said that that the quake caused panic in the city while tremors were also felt as far away as the capital Bishkek.

"We were woken up by a noise and strong jolts which lasted for about 40 seconds. The house began to shake," said Albek Seitov, a resident of Osh.

"I thought it was a dream, a nightmare. I went out in the street like my neighbours. Everyone is afraid, panicking," he said.

"I haven't seen houses destroyed. But the people are still outside, they're afraid of going home," he said.

A special Kyrgyz government team sent to the remote worst affected area earlier on Wednesday found no casualties and several damaged buildings.

"Damage to the buildings as a result of the earthquake is insignificant," said an official with the country's emergencies ministry, Aslanbek Osomov.

An electricity transformer fell as a result of the earthquake, leaving 11 Kyrgyz villages without power, the ministry said.

The Fergana Valley is an area shared uneasily by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and populated by complex tapestry of ethnic groups. It has been the scene of periodic violence and unrest since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

The quake was also registered at 6.0 in Tajikistan's second city of Khujand, which has a population of 150,000 people, Tajik officials said.

In Khujand, a man threw himself out of a second-floor window, killing himself, the Tajik interior ministry said.

The ministry said the 43-year-old man figured that he would live by jumping out the window during the earthquake.

"Maybe he was sleepy, maybe he figured 'if everything collapses, I will remain under ruins,' and so he jumped out and died," a source in the interior ministry told AFP.


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