Quake kills 13 in Russia's Chechnya region

GROZNY, Russia Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:16am IST

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GROZNY, Russia (Reuters) - An earthquake in the Caucasus mountains killed at least 13 people in Russia's Chechnya on Saturday and left hundreds of locals sheltering in tents the day before regional elections.

"We must not forget that we have elections tomorrow," Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov told a briefing. "They must go ahead as a happy event for all residents of Chechnya."

The number of people killed in the quake rose to 13, Interfax reported, citing the Emergencies Ministry.

Earlier, a Health Ministry spokesman in Grozny said 12 people were killed in the aftermath of the quake and 105 were injured, 7 critically.

About 500 families needed tent shelters for the night in the town of Kurchaloi, about 20 km (12 miles) southeast of the Chechen capital, which saw the worst damage in the region, the Emergencies Ministry said.

At least five of the victims were killed in Kurchaloi, where the tremor cracked the walls of the local hospital, forcing medics to treat the injured elsewhere, the ministry said.

The dead there included a soldier who was killed when the wall of a polling station collapsed on him, the ministry said.

The 40-second tremor knocked windows out of a literature institute in Grozny and cracked the facade of the regional administration headquarters. But damage in the Chechen capital was otherwise minimal.

Chechnya has fought two separatist wars with Moscow since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

A Reuters Television producer in Tbilisi said the quake could be felt in the Georgian capital nearly 250 km (180 miles) away.

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