Strong earthquake strikes island in eastern Russia

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A powerful earthquake struck the island of Sakhalin off the coast of Russia's Far East on Saturday. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the quake, which preliminary reports said had a magnitude of 7.

A powerful earthquake struck the island of Sakhalin off the coast of Russia's Far East on Saturday. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the quake, which preliminary reports said had a magnitude of 7.

The quake set off a substantial mudslide, the news agency ITAR-Tass reported. A layer of mud up to four meters (13 feet deep) covered a road near the town of Makarov, the report said, citing regional emergency services chief Nikolai Smirnov.

The Emergency Situations Ministry in Moscow said it had no information on casualties, but news reports said the quake disrupted communications on much of the island.

A ministry spokesman said a group of specialists was to fly to Sakhalin Saturday evening to work out measures to deal with the aftermath of the quake.

Margarita Tsoi, a spokeswoman for the regional governor's office, told NTV television, "the quake was felt in a considerably large territory, (but) there is no damage in the zone of the earthquake and no victims.

She said many residents ran from their homes into the streets after the quake, fearing aftershocks, "however, up to this time it has not been in the tradition of other earthquakes and there have been no aftershocks."

The earthquake hit at 2113 GMT Friday (8:13 a.m. Saturday local time). The U.S. Geological Survey said a preliminary reading of the quake's magnitude was 7.

ITAR-Tass cited Alexander Spirin of the Sakhalinsk seismological station as saying that the quake's epicenter was at 49 N latitude, 142.5 E longitude, a point about at the middle of the long, narrow island.

He said the jolt was felt most severely between Makarov and the town of Uglegorsk, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) away on the island's western coast, the report said.

Sakhalin island is about 850 kilometers (525 miles) northeast of the Russian port of Vladivostok. The island is about 950 kilometers (600 miles) in length, with mountains topping 1,300 meters (4,200 feet) running down its spine.

In 1995, a temblor registering 7.5 occurred about 240 miles (385 kilometers) north of the latest earthquake. It killed almost 2,000 people and caused severe damage. U.S. Geological Survey spokeswoman Trudi Harlow Harlow said in Washington that the latest quake was much less forceful in terms of energy released.

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