Strong earthquake shakes Tajikistan

DUSHANBE (Agencies) - A powerful earthquake in the Pamir mountains of Tajikistan has destroyed hundreds of homes, leaving some 20,000 people without shelter in the dead of winter, officials said Sunday. The 5.3 magnitude earthquake shook Tajikistans mountainous Gorno-Badakhshan province about 7:15am local time. 20,000 people were left homeless in the villages of Rog and Gishkon, where 1,050 mud dwellings were destroyed, according Russias RIA Novosti news agency. No fatalities were reported, Tajikistans Asia Plus news agency said on its Web site, citing Azimjon Shamsiddinov, deputy head of the Vanj district, where the two villages are located. The Vanj district was among the hardest hit, RIA Novosti said. A hospital, two schools, a recreation centre and a prosecutors office were destroyed in the district, about 400 kilometres southeast of Tajikistans capital, Dushanbe, according to the news agency. The US Geological Survey classified the quake as a magnitude 5.3. It was centred 80km north of Korough, Tajikistan, and was about 44.5km below the Earths surface, the USGS said. Authorities said they were assessing damages, but their work was complicated by the location of the destroyed villages. More than 25,000 people live in the affected area, the Vanj district. The deputy head of the district, Azimjon Shamsiddinov, told AFP preliminary damage estimates were between one million and 1.5 million dollars, a hefty amount for the impoverished ex-Soviet nation. Some residents in the Vanj district said they were afraid there could be another quake in the coming days. We live as if we were on a volcano, a local resident, Nazarbek Shodiyenov, 39, told AFP by phone. We feel constantly scared that an earthquake will strike again. We are scared to sleep at night. There is a feeling that the earth is constantly moving under feet. A government commission including seismologists and geologists was expected to arrive in the Vanj district Monday morning, said a senior official with the Civil Defence Committee. Earthquakes are relatively frequent in Tajikistan, which is located in Central Asia and borders war-torn Afghanistan.

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