At Least 70 Dead, Hundreds Buried In Sakhalin Earthquake
MOSCOW (AP) _ At least 70 people were killed when an earthquake struck a large island off Russia’s Pacific Coast early Sunday, destroying a town and leaving hundreds of its residents buried under the debris, an official said.
The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.5, according to Russian seismological officials. It occurred at 1:03 a.m. Sunday (9:03 a.m. Saturday EDT) near the sparsely populated northern tip of Sakhalin Island, eight time zones and some 4,000 miles east of Moscow.
The small town of Neftegorsk was completely destroyed by the quake, said Raisa Mikhailova, municipal spokeswoman in the district center of Okha.
She told The Associated Press that 124 injured people were brought from Neftegorsk to a hospital in Okha. As of 9:00 p.m., the bodies of 9 adults and 4 children had been discovered, Mikhailova said.
But Sakhalin’s deputy governor, Vitaly Gomilevsky, said at least 70 people were killed, the Interfax news agency reported. Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry put the initial death toll at 10, with more than 50 wounded.
According to Mikhailova, 13 five-story, prefabricated houses collapsed in Neftegorsk, burying about 3,000 people under the rubble. Many of those buried were later saved, she said. Another 500 people who lived in three-story brick houses got out safely, she said.
The epicenter was about 90 miles south of the town of Okha, right along the coast, said Eduard Kozhukhov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry. Neftegorsk is about 43 miles south of Okha.
Balconies fell off two five-story buildings in Okha, home to 35,000 people. Walls cracked and furniture broke inside many houses.
Two aftershocks followed soon after the initial quake, Okha district governor Nayil Yarulin told The Associated Press.
``I have been living in this area for 42 years and it’s the first earthquake of such force,″ Yarulin said.
``People left their houses and went out in the streets for fear of more shocks, but there is no panic,″ he said.
Sakhalin Island, home to 750,000 people, is just north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, on the Sea of Okhotsk. There were no immediate reports of damage on Hokkaido.