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Deadly quake hits northern Algeria

An earthquake victim has his head bandaged in a hospital corridor.
An earthquake victim has his head bandaged in a hospital corridor.

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Hundreds of people are dead amid extensive earthquake damage in Algeria (French and Arabic languages, poor audio) (May 21)
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ALGIERS, Algeria (CNN) -- At least 459 people have been killed and thousands of others injured by a strong earthquake in northern Algeria, Algerian state-run radio and television reports.

An entire hospital crumbled in the city of Abu Mardas, the news manager of Algerian Television said. Whole buildings collapsed there and elsewhere, he said.

The hardest-hit cities were Algiers, Rwaba City, and Abu Mardas, the reports said.

State radio said at least 459 people were killed, and the government feared that number could rise, reported Paul de Bendern, a journalist with Reuters. Algerian Television said more than 2,600 were injured.

State radio called on doctors and paramedics to help the injured, many of whom were heading toward Algiers due to a lack of hospitals in the hardest-hit areas.

Communications were difficult in the affected areas because many telephone poles had fallen or broken, de Bendern said.

The quake registered a magnitude of 6.7 according to the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Denver, which monitors seismology worldwide.

Such an earthquake is classified as "strong," capable of causing a lot of damage, especially in areas of poor construction. The USGS said the temblor may have caused substantial damage and casualties because of its location and size.

The epicenter was about 75 kilometers (45 miles) east of Algiers.

Algeria has experienced many destructive earthquakes, the USGS said. In October 1980, a 7.1 earthquake struck the city of El Asnam (now called Ech-Cheliff) and killed at least 5,000 people. That city is about 220 kilometers (136 miles) from Wednesday's quake.

The same city, when it was called Orleansville, was heavily damaged in September 1954 by a magnitude 6.7 earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people. In October 1989, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck about 110 kilometers (68 miles) to the west of Tuesday's earthquake, killing at least 30 people.


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