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Georgia survives earthquake with minimal damage

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, September 9
No serious casualties or widespread damage followed the earthquake which struck Georgia early on 8 September. Estimates of its magnitude range from 5.5 to 6.2. The earthquake was felt in all areas of Georgia but its epicentre was near Oni in the mountainous Racha region, where houses collapsed and roads were damaged. Almost all Racha residents spent the night outside their houses, hoping the quake would not strike again.

“I immediately came out into the street, I was very afraid. All the dishes were smashed,” Gulnara Gobejishvili from Racha said.

Governor of Racha Davit Gagoshidze stated that houses which were damaged during the 1991 earthquake and not been repaired had been destroyed in the centre of Oni. The Racha earthquake which occurred on April 29, 1991, at 09:12:48 GMT on the southern edge of the Greater Caucasus was the biggest ever recorded in the region. The earthquake killed more than 200 people, left approximately 60,000 homeless and caused damage over thousands of square kilometres.

“The damage is very serious this time and a special commission will count its cost. The emergency services are working but the roads towards Shovi and Iri are damaged. Traffic movement towards Shovi has resumed but work is still going on the road to Iri. The electricity supply to Oni has been restored and the Ambrolauri supply was not interrupted during the quake,” Gagoshidze said yesterday.

Reportedly only one woman was injured in the quake, after having jumped from the second floor of her house. She broke a leg and was taken to Tbilisi’s Ghudushauri Hospital. Davit Tkeshelashvili, the Minister of Infrastructural and Regional Development, left for Racha yesterday and personally assessed the damage. “On behalf of the Georgian Government I have come to Racha to understand fully what kind of situation we face after the earthquake and help the affected population,” Tkeshelashvili said.

People in Georgia’s eastern region of Kakheti also spent the night in the streets through being scared of the earthquake. Locals say they felt the tremor and went outside to protect themselves from a possible collapse of their houses. They say they did not panic however. Imereti Region was also struck by the earthquake and here too people stayed outside all night.

Oni is west of Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region, near the border with Russia on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. South Ossetian authorities said there were no casualties or major damage there, Russian news agencies reported. The region was in total blackout after the disaster. The Emergencies Ministry of the puppet regime said the earthquake there measured 5.5.

The last major earthquake in Georgia, of magnitude 6, struck Tbilisi on April 25, 2002, killing six people and causing significant damage to the capital's Old Town. It was the strongest earthquake since 1900 in Tbilisi and its epicentre was in the city centre. However it was very localised, only affecting an area of 4.5- 5 km radius. Despite the moderate magnitude, the earthquake had quite a strong effect: its maximum horizontal acceleration was 0.11g, as recorded 7 kilometres from its epicentre at the Tbilisi Seismic Station.

The Seismic Monitoring Centre says that it does not expect a swift repetition of anything of the magnitude of the September 8 earthquake but another less powerful one might occur at its epicentre.