Fears grow of new Russian quake

Neftegorsk - The two children, playing near a freshly dug grave on the edge of this shattered oil town, recounted their family's tragedy in an almost matter-of-fact way.

"Mummy was ill and Daddy had gone to the hospital. When the ground started moving, he was on the street and couldn't get back," nine-year-old Sveta said. "Mummy was crushed, but Daddy was okay," she added.

Three days after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake flattened their town, entombing more than 2,000 people, a car has become home for Sveta, her eight-year- old brother Sergei and their father.

The children showed no signs of grief at the tragedy that robbed them of their mother, grandmother and grandfather. They brightened considerably when a rescue worker brought over boxes of cereal, biscuits and tubes of vitamin tablets.

As they spoke, earthmovers cleared ground for family-sized graves in the harsh scrubland on the outskirts of town.

Although a major rescue operation is under way to extricate survivors from the tangle of metal and concrete, authorities are under no illusion that the death-toll will be under 2,000. Rows of bodies still lie near the ruins where rescuers are battling to reach any living people that may lie beneath.

Some families have already buried their dead in pits near the rundown graveyard. As yet, there is only one makeshift headstone from Sunday's tragedy, marking the graves of 60-year-old Lidiya Laikina and her six- year-old granddaughter Oxsana Gadeyeva.

A figure lying prone on the ground near by turned out to be a woman in mourning and prostrate with grief.

Officials said yesterday that 32 survivors had been detected after mechanical work was stopped and rescue workers shouted down into the ruins.

"Now we are trying to get them out. But there are no less than 2,000 others trapped, maybe dead. God willing that the death-toll would be less than 2,000," said Alexander Avdoshin, spokesman for the Ministry for Emergency Situations.

Experts blamed shoddy building work and the closure of seismological warning stations for the death-toll. The flattened blocks dated from the 1960s and 1970s, a time when Soviet builders traditionally cut corners in the desperate rush to throw up accommodation.

Russia has mounted a big operation involving 800 specialists, 18 planes and 14 helicopters to rescue survivors from the rubble and ferry the injured to hospital. President Boris Yeltsin, in a televised address to the nation, promised to pay up to 50m roubles (pounds 6,500) to every victim's family and declared today a day of mourning. "For you who have suffered and lost your near ones ... you grieve. It is hard for you. But know that all Russia is with you," he said.

Worse could be to come, since a Russian seismologist predicted the Far Eastern peninsula of Kamchatka would soon be hit by a worse earthquake.

Many survivors, some with their faces badly scorched around the eyes from flames which engulfed several apartment blocks, after they crumbled, are still in shock. They head for a makeshift information centre set up in a one-storey hostel - one of the few buildings that survived the earthquake - with pleas for help for people still trapped.

Some want access to the ruins, patrolled by police to prevent looting, to retrieve their belongings. Farm animals on allotments cry out to their absent owners for food and water.

A generator to power floodlights is the only source of power in the town. There is no running water and only three telephones which can only call numbers in Sakhalin, a remote island eight time zones and 4,500 miles east of Moscow.

In the information centre, a pile of telegrams from relatives anxious for news of their relatives lie on a table. "They are all gone," says a woman finding one from her friend inquiring about her family. "All her family has gone. How can I tell her," she said tears streaming down her face.

Near what used to be the town centre, a life-size statue of Lenin - one of the few structures left standing - gazes out across the tragic scene.

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice