2,000+ left homeless by Sakhalin earthquake

The state of emergency declared in the town of Nevelsk in Russia's Far East, where a fatal Earthquake hit earlier this week, is expected to be lifted on Sunday. While some residents have already started returning to their homes, almost 400 people, mostly

The natural disaster has killed two people and injured 12 others. 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.

Russia's Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoigu says owners of destroyed homes can choose between leaving and staying in the town.

“We have two main options. The first is for those who are retired and who are eligible for the relocation programme – as you know there is a government programme for relocating people from Arctic regions to the central part of Russia. The second option is for those who have jobs and who don't want to leave,” commented Sergey Shoigu.

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.

An Emergencies Ministry plane delivered humanitarian aid
An Emergencies Ministry plane delivered humanitarian aid
Seismologists say that despite the destruction, Nevelsk may have been relatively lucky.

“This is the fifth or the sixth biggest earthquake on 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,” said Aleksey Ivashchenko, a seismologist from the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology in Moscow.

Twelve years ago 2,000 people were killed in an earthquake in Neftegorsk, another city on Sakhalin. The damage was so extensive that the town was never re-built.

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 re-build all of them. These buildings are under the greatest threat.

There are risks not only to those half a million people that live on 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.


We have two main options. The first is for those who are retired and who are eligible for the relocation programme – as you know there is a government programme for relocating people from Arctic regions to the central part of Russia. The second option is for those who have jobs and who don't want to leave.

Sergey Shoigu,
Russia's Emergencies Minister

“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 a 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.