Earthquake kills 13 in central Asia


The death toll is expected to rise in central Asia after an earthquake hit a border region between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

At least 13 people were reported killed in the eastern Uzbek city of Ferghana which has a population of 200,000.

The quake struck at 1.35am local time (7.35pm Tuesday, Irish time) the US Geological Survey said. It measured 6.1 on the Richter scale and was centered some 18km deep and about 35 kilometres from the Uzbek city of Ferghana, in a mountainous region of neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

No deaths have as yet been reported from Kyrgyzstan.

Uzbekistan’s Emergency Services Ministry said 86 people were being treated for injuries, 35 of whom have been taken to hospital.

The Department of Foreign Affairs had no immediate information on numbers of Irish residents in the area if any, and is contacting consular and diplomatic offices in the region this afternoon.

Uzbek president Islam Karimov has sent emergency services to the region with instructions to prevent further deaths from collapsing buildings and provide assistance to victims, a government statement said.

Officials said a number of residential buildings in several towns in the Ferghana Province have been damaged, but they did not specify the extent of the earthquake’s impact.

“Local authorities are carrying out the work needed to assist the population affected by the earthquake and have take on the burden of the costs of organising and carrying out the burial of victims,” the Emergency Services Ministry said.

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry said the country’s leadership had expressed its condolences to the families of those killed .

Kanat Abdrakhmatov, head of the National Academy of Science’s seismology institute, said the epicentre was in a sparsely inhabited area of Kyrgyzstan and that only a few buildings there appear to have been damaged.

Ferghana resident Dilaffrus Muminova told Reuters the earthquake had lasted for about three minutes. "Everybody was afraid. Everything was shaking," he said.

A resident of the Kyrgyz city of Batken – identified only by his first name of Ismat - said cracks were visible in the walls of some houses. "People were on the streets all night. There was a lot of panic," he said.

The Ferghana valley is split between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and is one of Central Asia's most densely populated areas. Reuters said tremors were felt across the region.