- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 3, 2010

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — About 20,000 people were left homeless in the impoverished Central Asian nation of Tajikistan after an earthquake leveled their homes in a mountainous region, officials said Sunday.

No deaths were reported after the magnitude 5.3 quake struck the Pamir Mountains on Saturday, the Emergency Situations and Civil Defense Committee said.

Hundreds of mud-brick houses in several villages in the Gorno-Badakhshansky region were damaged. The quake also cut electricity and communications and blocked the main road between the regional center of Vanch and nearby villages.

Those left homeless were placed in emergency shelters in schools and other public buildings or moved in with relatives, Azimjon Shamsiddinov, the deputy chief regional administrator, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Earthquakes are common in the mountains of Tajikistan, one of the poorest of the former Soviet states. The country of 7.3 million people lies north of Afghanistan and west of China.

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