July 19, 2011 6:32 PM

Powerful earthquake strikes southern Kyrgyzstan

(AP)  BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — A powerful earthquake struck a mountainous region of southern Kyrgyzstan on the border with Uzbekistan early Wednesday. No casualties or serious damage were immediately reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-6.2 temblor hit at about 1:35 a.m. local time in an area some 22 miles (35 kilometers) away from the Uzbek city of Ferghana, which has a population of more than 200,000.

In Andijan, the next-largest city in Uzbekistan's Ferghana Valley, roughly 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the epicenter, residents told The Associated Press that many people had left their homes in panic and were spending the night in the streets. Media reports from across the area carried similar testimonies about shaking buildings and cracks appearing in the walls of people's homes.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said there was no available information yet about casualties or damage. National protection commissions were traveling to the affected areas to provide assistance, the ministry said.

Quakes are a relatively frequent occurrence in this mountainous region of former Soviet Central Asia.

A 6.6-magnitude quake near Kyrgyzstan's borders with Tajikistan and China flattened the remote mountain village of Nura in July 2008, killing at least 74 people.

Kanat Abdrakhmatov, head of the National Academy of Science's seismology institute, said Wednesday's temblor appeared similar to the one that struck Nura, and that there would likely be some damage because buildings in the area are structurally weak.

The Kyrgyz side of the border is sparsely populated and most roads are poor, which could hinder emergency operations.

Mamadzhan Berdishev, press secretary of the city administration in Batken, the nearest urban center to the quake in Kyrgyzstan, said residents in the area contacted authorities in a panic overnight.

"It was so terrifying. It shook so hard," Berdishev said.

The highway linking Batken to the biggest city in the south, Osh, was closed off because of falling rocks, but was later cleared by emergency workers. Six villages in Batken province's Kalamzhai district lost power after a substation was damaged, Berdishev said.

One Russian news agency reported people feeling the quake as far away as Dushanbe, the capital of neighboring Tajikistan, at least 185 miles (300 kilometers) southwest of the epicenter.

Online news portal Kloop.kg cited the mayor of one of the villages in Kyrgyzstan closest to the quake, Kyzyl-Kiya, as saying shortly after the tremors that the plaster had been shaken off the walls of some old homes, but that there were no significant indications of damage.

"I am with the people and trying to keep them calm. Police, emergency services, power and water utilities, everything is working," Mayor Khabiybulla Kalmurzayev told the site.

© 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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