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5 Aug, 2007 21:27

Nevelsk residents deal with earthquake consequences

Over 150 aftershocks have been registered in the town of Nevelsk in Russia's Far East where an earthquake left thousands of people homeless on Thursday. The strongest aftershock has been registered with a magnitude of four on the Richter scale.

Meanwhile according to the Emergencies Ministry, energy supplies have been completely restored and water will be back on by the end of Sunday. Russia's Emergencies Minister says the focus of efforts is now on re-building damaged houses and relocating people.

Sergey Shoigu ordered that all people be removed from temporary shelters to health farms within five days. It's planned that, by the end of this year, some 64,000 square metres of earthquake-proof housing will be built in the quake-stricken city.

The earthquake that hit the town of Nevelsk claimed two lives. 30-year-old Maria worked at what used to be the palace of culture. On the day of her death Maria rehearsed children's performance with dozens of her young actors. She played a fairy – a fairy which saved the lives of the kids but had no time to save her own. 58-year-old Stanislav died when the shock of the first and biggest tremor caused him to have a heart attack.

Nevelsk is a small port in the South-Western part of Russia's far eastern island of Sakhalin. The island lies in the same area of high seismic activity in the Pacific Ocean that also affects the Russian peninsula Kamchatka, the Kurils and Japan.

On August 2, a series of earthquakes hit the whole area. But only one town suffered serious damage, the epicentre of the tremors was directly under Nevelsk. More then 2,000 people have been left homeless.

Nine tent towns have been set up all over Nevelsk for housing residents. People are fed at field kitchens and are kept warm inside. They sleep on camp beds together with their children and pets.

The town has been quick to rally behind those worst hit. Professional assistance and neighbourliness has provided comfort for many and has made the disaster a little easier to stand. Planes carrying humanitarian aid, food, communications equipment and construction materials have been arriving daily at Yuzhny-Sakhalinsk airport in the region's capital. 

Fourteen apartment-buildings have been condemned for demolition, so at least 500 families will need to be permanently re-housed. The Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoigu offered his assurance this would be accomplished quickly: “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,” the official said.

It's now been a few days since the quake and smiles are creeping back on to the faces of some of the younger residents. But for their parents much re-building needs to be done and it might be some time yet before they can relax and enjoy themselves.