Tajik Earthquake Leaves Thousands Homeless In Freezing Temperatures

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Rescue efforts are under way in Tajikistan's mountainous Badakhshan region after a strong earthquake has left thousands of people without shelter in freezing temperatures.

A 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck on the morning of January 2 destroying or partially damaging hundreds of homes.

There were no reported deaths, although at least two villagers were wounded, according to officials at Tajikistan's emergency-situations committee.

Most villagers left their homes after the first tremor, significantly reducing the casualties.

According to RFE/RL's Tajik Service correspondent in Badakhshon Province, Mirzojalol Shohjamol, electricity power lines were cut and roads were blocked.

Two schools and a clinic have also been destroyed.

Mahbuba, a resident of the Uskrogh village in the Vanj District who did not give her second name, said most of the houses in her neighborhood have collapsed.

"My neighbor's house has collapsed. Many other houses fell down a few streets down and also there was some destruction in a small village next to ours," Mahbuba said.

There are conflicting estimates of the amount of people left homeless, ranging from several hundred to 20,000.

The affected area, the Vanj District, is home to over 30,000 people.


Authorities say that the official assessment of the damage, as well as rescue efforts, have been complicated by the remote locations of the affected villages.

But preliminary damage estimates are said to be between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Many villagers, whose homes were destroyed by the earthquake, said they spent last night at neighbors' or relatives' homes.

Local residents in Uskrogh told RFE/RL's Tajik Service they have not received any assistance from the authorities.

They said villagers have been clearing roads using spades and shovels.

Yodovar Kholov, a local mullah, whose house has also been damaged, said people are afraid to return to their homes as aftershocks are still continuing.

"There are many mild tremors almost every 20 minutes. It's not as strong as the first one, though. And there's some kind of noise," Kholov said.

"It feels like the earth under your feet is moving up and down. Children are afraid and don't want to enter homes, but what can we do in such cold weather."

While Tajikistan is prone to earthquakes, Vanj residents complain that tremors have been happening more frequently in the district since 2007.

They say, despite numerous complaints, officials have not taken any measures to address the situation.

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