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9 Aug, 2007 02:43

Sakhalin quake victims waiting for new homes

Fresh aftershocks have destroyed yet more homes in the town of Nevelsk on Russia's Sakhalin Island. Last week's earthquake left 2,000 people homeless, who are now staying in local tourist camps outside the town. It is not clear when they will be able to r

Experts are examining the buildings for damage and demolishing those beyond repair.

But last night's aftershocks, measuring up to 5 on the Richter scale have exacerbated the damage, possibly rendering twice as many houses uninhabitable. The surveyors will now have to re-examine them. 

Meanwhile, people remain unsure if they can return to their homes. More than 500 have been taken to tourist camps outside the city. Alongside the food and shelter, counselling is on offer for those who want it. And children seem to be more in need of it than adults.

“When we started working with them, they wouldn't leave their parents' side. It was hard to get them to communicate. But we think that getting them to paint is an effective form of therapy,” explains psychologist Natalya Dmitrieva.

The governor of Sakhalin has tendered his resignation, following Vladimir Putin's criticism of the slowness of the local authorities in dealing with the crisis.

The government has promised to build over 2,000 new apartments for those left homeless, which will cost more than $ US 200 MLN.

Still, for a remote city, whose main employer, the port, shut down years ago the present is bleak, and the future uncertain.