A major earthquake hit a distant, sparsely populated region of Russia's Far East early yesterday, causing unknown damage and possible injuries, emergency officials said. The US Geologic Survey and Japan's Meteorological Agency estimated the temblor to be about 7.7 in magnitude.
The quake hit at around 12:30pm yesterday in the Koryak region, nearly 7,000km east of Moscow and some 1,000km north of the largest city in the area Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, said Oleg Kotosanov, a duty officer with the regional emergency situations ministry.
Kotosanov said by telephone that there were reports of damage in some villages of the Pacific region, and that emergency officials were flying by helicopter to several locations. Federal emergency officials in Moscow said they had no information about the quake.
Another duty officer at the Koryak regional emergency situations ministry said that there was no telephone communication with the affected region and that reconnaissance helicopters would reach the village of Tilichiki, apparently the hardest hit site, only at about 6pm. Some 2,028 people live in the coastal village, he said.
Emergency officials in Koryak said as far as they knew, some people had suffered only bruises. Russian news agencies said buildings including a school, two nursery schools, a hospital and a local airfield in Tilichiki had been damaged, along with municipal electric and heating systems. The agencies said some insignificant injuries had been reported.
Russia's north Pacific coast sits along a major tectonic plate and is frequently hit by earthquakes.
"It's the largest event in this area since 1900," US Geological Survey spokeswoman A.B. Wade said. "It's a sparsely populated area; up to 2,000 people were exposed to intensive shaking."
By comparison, the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, which destroyed more than half of the city's buildings and left between 3,000 and 6,000 people dead, was estimated at a magnitude of between 7.7 and 7.9.