A strong earthquake rocked the Algerian capital region Wednesday night, killing at least 800 people and injuring at least 5,000, according to figures released by the Interior Ministry. Rescuers feared families were buried in the rubble as apartment building walls collapsed and trees crushed cars.
"This is a misfortune that has struck the Algerian people," Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said on television.
The Interior Ministry was quoted by the official Algerian news agency APS as saying the death toll could rise as rescuers find more people buried in rubble.
Television carried reports of weeping survivors walking amid debris. The quake was deadliest in towns in the vicinity of Thenia, near the quake epicenter.
The Algerian prime minister said whole families may be buried under collapsed homes and so the initial death toll may be "unfortunately partial."
The quake cut electricity in some neighborhoods of Algiers and caused panic throughout the city, AP reported. About 10 aftershocks rippled through the area in the hours that followed.
The U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors quakes around the world, said the temblor had a preliminary magnitude of 6.7. Algerian officials put it much lower at 5.2.
Interior Minister Nouredine Yazid Zerhouni traveled to Thenia and Boumerdes. A call for blood donors was issued and medical personnel and employees of Sonelgaz, the state company that supplies electricity, were asked to pitch in and help. (Albawaba.com)