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Quake kills 12 in Russia's North Caucasus

A strong earthquake hit Chechnya and other parts of Russia's North Caucasus Saturday, killing at least 12 people and damaging scores of hospitals, schools and other buildings, emergency officials said.
/ Source: Reuters

A strong earthquake hit Chechnya and other parts of Russia's North Caucasus Saturday, killing at least 12 people and damaging scores of hospitals, schools and other buildings, emergency officials said.

The quake hit around 1 p.m. and was centered northeast of the Chechen capital, Grozny, Russian emergency officials said. The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor had a magnitude of 5.3.

At least 12 people were killed in the quake and a series of aftershocks, which were felt throughout the North Caucasus and which rattled Grozny for more than 30 seconds, the regional Emergency Situations Ministry office said. The toll was expected to rise as officials got information from outlying districts.

Most victims were killed by falling debris or furniture in homes and apartment buildings, said Oleg Grekov, a regional emergency official. More than 60 people sought medical help in the hardest hit Chechen towns, which included Grozny and Gudermes, he 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.