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2,000+ left homeless by Sakhalin earthquake

More than 2,000 people have been left homeless following an earthquake which hit Russia's Far Eastern Island of Sakhalin on Thursday. An Emergencies Ministry plane carrying humanitarian aid to the earthquake victims has landed on the island of Sakhalin.

Two people died and 12 others were injured in the quake. The threat of aftershocks remains strong in the region: 14 have been recorded so far. Two minor tsunamis triggered by the tremor hit the Japanese island of Hokkaido but caused no damage.

Around 600 families out of a population of 17,000 are now living in an emergency campsite. Many of those will have to find a new permanent home.

The head of the Russian Emergencies Ministry, Sergey Shoygu, says it is still unclear when people will be able to return to homes that haven't been destroyed.

An Emergencies Ministry plane carrying 24 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the earthquake victims has landed on the island of Sakhalin. The plane had to land in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk due to bad weather conditions, but managed to continue the flight after the delay.

Seismologists say that despite the destruction, Nevelsk may have been relatively lucky.

This is the fifth or the sixth biggest earthquake in Sakhalin since records began. It happened in the exact place where we thought it would, and we were expecting it to come at this time. But we thought that it would be even stronger,

Aleksey Ivashchenko, a seismologist from the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology in Moscow

Twelve years ago 2000 people were killed in an earthquake in Neftegorsk, another city on Sakhalin. The damage was so extensive that the town was never rebuilt.

After Neftegorsk, requirements for buildings were tightened. But those buildings constructed before 1995 time are built to a much lower seismological standard. That's about 90% of all buildings. It would be prohibitively expensive to rebuild all of them.These buildings are under the greatest threat.

There are risks not only to those half a million people that live in Sakhalin, Russia's most earthquake-prone region. The $US 20 BLN Sakhalin-2 gas field also faces a potential threat. Many of its pipelines will stretch over the seabed, making them particularly vulnerable to future earthquakes.

“I worked on the Sakhalin 2 project. We, the seismologists, tried to give an objective assessment of the risks. But only time will tell how closely our recommendations were followed. Any earthquake is always a risk,” said Mr Ivashchenko.

The authorities are now beginning the big clean-up, making sure the survivors have the basic necessities before attempting to restore amenities.

More tremors are expected in the area in the next few hours and days, though they are unlikely to be as strong.