Relief efforts continue in quake-hit Kyrgyzstan, UN reports

8 October 2008

United Nations humanitarian agencies are continuing their relief efforts in the mountains of southern Kyrgyzstan, where an earthquake on Sunday night killed more than 70 people and displaced hundreds of families, as they work to bring aid before the expected arrival of the first snowfalls of the season.

At least 74 people were killed and 142 others were injured as a result of the quake, while more than 200 families have been displaced from their homes, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

Kyrgyz authorities and UN officials say the population is so sparse in the affected area, a remote, mountainous region close to the border with China, that they do not expect the casualty or displacement tolls to rise dramatically.

But air temperatures are now reaching freezing level at night, and strong winds are also making it difficult for relief operations. The first snowfalls and frosts are expected in the new few weeks.

OCHA said a temporary camp is being established for the displaced families, although the reconstruction of homes has been identified as a priority given that the upcoming winter and high altitudes mean tents are not practicable as a long-term option.

Relief items such as tents, mattresses, blankets, warm clothing and food are now starting to reach the affected areas, and the electricity supply has been restored, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists today.

OCHA has allocated a cash grant to provide two generators and some basic non-food items, noting that most people in the area have indicated they want to remain in their home villages to look after crops and other assets.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided emergency health kits, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released hygienic and sanitary kits and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has offered other emergency supplies.

Sunday night’s earthquake measured 6.6 on the Richter scale and was followed by two sizeable aftershocks. The major tremor was centred near the village of Nura, which has lost much of its infrastructure.


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