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Central Asia Quake Kills At Least 72

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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — A powerful earthquake struck the mountains of Central Asia, destroying a village in Kyrgyzstan and killing at least 72 people, emergency officials said Monday.

The 6.6-magnitude quake near the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan hit the remote village of Nura hard, bringing down dozens of buildings and injuring more than 100 people in addition to the confirmed deaths, Emergency Situations Minister Kamchybek Tashiyev said.

"What we've seen is terrible, the village of Nura is completely destroyed _ 100 percent," Tashiyev said. "There are many injured and we've counted 60 dead so far, all of them local residents."

Later Monday, Health Ministry spokeswoman Yelena Bayalinova said the death toll was 72.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties elsewhere.

Tashiyev said a helicopter was ferrying the most seriously injured to hospitals in the nearest sizable city, the southern regional center of Osh, more than 60 miles away. The emergency minister said the helicopters would return to collect more of the injured.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered Russian Emergency Situations Ministry to help Kyrgyzstan respond to the quake.

The 6.6-magnitude temblor was centered in Kyrgyzstan and was followed by a 5.1-magnitude quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said. But the Kyrgyz Emergency Situations Ministry said the first quake was centered in Tajikistan.

In Moscow, Evgeny Rogozhin, a quake expert at the Earth Physics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that the quake epicenter was in a valley where the borders of China, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan converge.

Rogozhin said Sunday's initial 6.6 shock was followed by a series of aftershocks, but could not say whether it was linked to a pair of earthquakes that jolted the capital of Chinese-ruled Tibet and surrounding areas Monday, killing 30 people and causing hundreds of houses to collapse.

Brian Baptie, a seismologist at the British Geological Survey based in Edinburgh, Scotland, said the quakes in Kyrgyzstan and Tibet appeared unrelated.

"You can have earthquakes triggering other earthquakes but they usually have to be quite close for that to happen," within a few hundred miles, Baptie said.

The epicenter of the Kyrgyz quake appeared to be about 1,243 miles west of the Tibetan quakes.

Earthquakes are common in the mountains of former Soviet Central Asia, adding to the troubles for residents of the impoverished area.


Associated Press Writer Louise Watt in London contributed to this story.