Very strong shallow and dangerous earthquake in Siberia - limited damage but luckily NO injured

Last update: December 28, 2011 at 11:07 pm by By

Earthquake overview : A very strong earthquake (M 6.5 to M 7.0 following different sources) happened in the South Western part of Siberia. The epicenter was located in a sparsely populated wilderness area at a distance of 120 km from Kyzyl, a city with 109,000 inhabitants and the capital of the Tuva Republic.
"I have Felt it" Reports --> see below + Let us know "how you have felt this earthquake"
To read the full story as it happened, we advise our readers to start at the lower part of the page (earthquake data).

Keep this page open or return regularly as we will be back with more details when they become available

Landscape in the greater epicenter area - Panoramio image courtesy Roman Petrov


Update 28/12 - 22:49 UTC
Reports are mentioning today that the Tuva Republic had a lucky escape. In Kyzyl, the capital of the republic, at least 30 apartment buildings are showing cracks.
- 3,500 people will stay in temporary shelters
- mines in the greater area were closed after the earthquake to allow inspection and as a precautionary measure. Later today work has been resumed
- We have counted 13 M+3.5 aftershocks since the mainshock
- 24 hours after it happened we are happy to report that, so far, NO people have been reported injured or dead.

Update 28/12 - 10:53 UTC
- We have counted 8 aftershocks so far (Magnitudes in between 3.6 and 4.8)

Update 28/12 - 08:43 UTC
- The MOE (Emergency ministry) has dispatched 1615 people and 730 vehicles in the earthquake area.  MOE is currently continuing searches and inspection of the snow covered area and has found no victims and only limited damage.

Update 28/12 - 08:11 UTC
- NO casualties and only very minor damage has been reported so far in the epicentral area.
- temporary accommodation for 400 people has been set up by emergency services as a precautionary measure
- The Russian Ministry of Energy reported that power supply is normal and that inspections in the field have not reported substantial damage. The same goes for oil transport. Inspection teams will conduct further checks by helicopter today.

Update 28/12 - 08:00 UTC
We received this I Felt It report from Kyzyl, approx. 100 km from the epicenter (even for major earthquakes, 100 km is normally very far) : We felt a sound as if the huge truck has started to crash our house down. then in a couple of seconds, the furniture started to move as long as all the kitchen stuff. The ground began to get a kind of liquid surface. During the night, several airplanes started to ground with emergency. People still stayed outside in hope all was gone.  Sincerely, Kyzyl inhabitant

Update 28/12 - 00:34 UTC
Overview of the reported magnitudes and depth from the seismological agencies reporting worldwide earthquakes :
RAS (RUS) - M 6.5 @ 10 km
USGS (USA) - M 6.6 @ 6.9 km
EMSC (Europe) - M 6.5 @ 10 km
GEOFON (Germany) - M 6.6 @ 10 km
CEN (China) - M 7.0 @ 10 km

Update 28/12 - 00:13 UTC
RAS (Russian Academy of sciences) has reported 3 aftershocks of 4.6 @ 10km; 4.3 @ 10 km and 4.9 @ 15 km

Update 28/12 - 00:13 UTC :  RT (English broadcasting) is reporting that Mr. Shoigu has said that the magnitude was raised to 9.5. We do not believe this report. The Minister mentioned the number as MSK (almost equivalent to MMI and on a scale from 0-12).  A 9.5 magnitude at this shallow depth would have been totally destructive and damaging far beyond the epicenter. Kyzul suffered light to moderate shaking. As a result there might be some cracks in houses, but Kyzil (said to be at ca 100 km from the epicenter) had no severe damage or devastation.

Update  23:55  UTC : During the night, specialized rescue personnel from other areas have been transported to Kyzyl. They will leave as soon as possible to the epicenter area to assess the situation. The emergency minister was saying that many people had their second home in the greater epicenter area.  Having visited Siberia before i (Armand) know for sure that these houses are in 99% of the cases 1 level houses. Being the Siberian winter (freezing temperature at the moment is -20 to -30 °C) people will not be in these houses in great numbers. Our estimate is that there might be damage at these houses, but that apart of some accidental dead, the toll will be acceptable. This estimate is based upon the epicenter of USGS and the population numbers of GDACS 'see below). Let us hope that we are right.

Update : The earthquake in Siberia is estimated at 9.5 MSK, according to Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Description IX MSK : Destructive - General panic. People may be forcibly thrown to the ground. Waves are seen on soft ground. Substandard structures collapse. Substantial damage to well-constructed structures. Underground pipelines ruptured. Ground fracturing, widespread landslides.

Update :  Magnitudes and focal depth are reported in different numbers by the different sources. Magnitude goes from 6.5 until 7.0. Focal depth ranges from 45 km to 6.9 km !

Update : The picture looks almost romantic, but bear in mind the people have to stay outside during the night at temperatures of -26 °C ! Luckily no fresh snow. Snow is however still on the streets. This is Siberia !

Update : MSK scale : The Medvedev-Sponheuer-Karnik scale is somewhat similar to the Modified Mercalli (MM) scale used in the United States. The MSK scale has 12 intensity degrees expressed in Roman numerals. The description of 8 MSK is as follows : Damaging / Many people find it difficult to stand, even outdoors. Furniture may be overturned. Waves may be seen on very soft ground. Older structures partially collapse or sustain considerable damage. Large cracks and fissures opening up, rockfalls. (source Wikipedia)

Update : 8 MSK at the epicentre according to RAS. Only 5 MSK at Kyzyl meaning that there is likely only minor damage.
In Novosibirsk, the intensity of the earthquake was to be 1.6 points. "This is the calculated data, while data from seismic stations, which
should fix the surface waves has been reported. As soon as they arrive and are processed, there will be more accurate, more likely, the strength of earthquakes will increase," - said the RAS. According to Director of Geophysical Service (TOS), Siberian Branch of RAS Victor Seleznev, the epicenter of the earthquake was located in the upper Yenisei River east of the city of Kyzyl, in the area of Academician Obruchev. The scientist said that the shaking in Krasnoyarsk was 3-4 MSK, at the epicenter - 8 MSK.
(ER : 8 MSK means that there will be likely damage in the epicentral area - epicenter area damage has not been reported yet)

Update : According to the MOE, the epicenter of the earthquake was located 120 kilometers east of Kyzyl (Tuva). (ER : USGS reported the earthquake epicenter at 96 km from Kyzyl)

Update : According to preliminary data, there has been no deaths or destruction reported after the earthquake in Siberia , told RIA Novosti by telephone a representative of the Siberian Regional Emergency Center.

Update : Video from people having to spend the night outside their houses at a temperature of at least -20°C

Update : Residents of Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk and Khakassia felt the quake. The apartments had swaying chandeliers and furniture moving. People fled their homes. However, users of the Internet in their microblogs
reported outage of cellular communication in the area. Meanwhile it is reported that the earthquake in Siberia had no effect on the power plant there. (ER : these cities are several hundred km from the epicenter).

Update : The Chinese seismological agency published a magnitude of 7.0 at a depth of 10 km.

Update : The Russian seismological agency reports a magnitude of 6.5 (almost similar as USGS). The Russian authorities have asked the people living in the greater epicenter area to leave their home out of fear for aftershocks. The earthquake has been felt in many cities in Siberia, including in Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk.

Update : The closest big city is Kyzyl, the capital of the Tuva Republic, Russia.  Kyzyl had 109,906 inhabitants during the 2010 census. We call Kyzyl NOT at risk for this earthquake (we expect no serious damage in Kyzyl), but it will certainly have been shaken well. Kyzyl claims to be located exactly in the geographical center of Asia.  The sister city of Kyzyl is Honolulu ! Kyzyl is located where the Yenisei River meets the Maly Yenisey River to form the Verkhny Yenisey. Most development is south of the river and follow the curves of the river, with the highest development centered where the two headstreams of the Yenisei, the Bolshoy Yenisey and the Maly Yenisey, meet. People who want to know more about Kyzyl can take a look at the wikipedia page.

Update : As the earthquake happened at 22:21 (10:21 PM),  and as the epicenter center area is a very remote location, we do not expect to hear more details from eventual damage before 08:00 UTC tomorrow.

Update : WAPMERR, the theoretical damage engine expect 0 to 5 fatalities (we think it will be O) and 0 to 20 injured people

Update : The names of the closest villages (often no more than a few houses) are : Baza Koptu, Bay-sot, Shan, KagzhirbaOyna and Demirzhi. The area is a vast wilderness area.

Update : Following the calculations of the USGS only 9 people will experience a very strong MMI VII shaking. 2,000 people a strong shaking and 28,000 people a moderate shaking.  All very good numbers. Again we stress that these numbers are only valid if the epicenter is well calculated. We have experienced in the past serious differences between the preliminary values and the real values.

Shaking map with probable MMI values - image courtesy USGS

Update : If the present epicenter is confirmed it will probably be a lucky ending as there are no people living in a radius of 10 km and only 5 people within a radius of 20 km. 4,380 people live within 50 km and 103,537 within 100 km.  For this kind of magnitude and depth we call a 20 km radius around the epicenter as extremely dangerous.

Update : USGS reports a magnitude of 6.6  at a depth of 6.9 km.

Update : EMSC reports a preliminary 6.2 magnitude at a depth of 10 km. These data have to be confirmed as they are sometimes very erroneous soon after it happens

Preliminary reports are mentioning the greater Kyzyl area.
We have received a number of I Felt It reports mentioning a moderate to strong shaking GOOGLE+ / FACEBOOK
"I Have Felt It" reports as received by
Krasnoyarsk : weak shaking indicated
Курагино : moderate shaking indicated
Кызыл : Strong shaking indicated
Kyzyl : We felt a sound as if the huge truck has started to crash our house down. then in a couple of seconds, the furniture started to move as long as all the kitchen stuff. The ground began to get a kind of liquid surface. During the night, several airplanes started to ground with emergency. People still stayed outside in hope all was gone.
Sincerely, Kyzyl inhabitant
Krasnoyarsk : Light shaking indicated

Most important Earthquake Data:
Magnitude : 6.6  (Mw)
UTC Time : Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at 15:21:56 UTC
Local time at epicenter : Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at 10:21:56 PM at epicenter
Depth (Hypocenter) : 6.9 km
Geo-location(s) :
96 km (59 miles) E of Kyzyl, Russia

Links to important maps
Google satellite map showing the epicenter and the surrounding area.
Historic earthquakes map
Seismic hazard map
Shaking map
Focal mechanism report
Human impact map
GDACS earthquake report
QuakeSOS+ and QuakeSOS free are iPhone applications developed by Armand Vervaeck, the founder of Earthquake Report. The Application simplifies immediate group communication to friends and family members (with your exact GPS location) and is feeding the users with Earthquake Report news. The 0.99 US$ QuakeSOS+ version will support the activities of SOS Earthquakes.

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I did feel it – Ik heb het gevoeld – Το έκανα αισθάνεται Yo lo he sentido – 我的确感到了 – 私はそれを感じていました- Ich habe es gefühlt – Bunu hissediyorum yaptı – لم أشعر أنه


  1. I've been trying to get a bit of information from Russian-language online news sources, via Google Translate, and Interfax-Siberia is reporting some problem about water in the village near the epicenter of quake, Saryg-Cen. See, for example, . There appears to be flooding, as a result of the quake's effect on the river, but it also says, per Google Translate, that Saryg-Cen is without water, which is not surprising considering the VIII shaking (per USGS PAGER report) the village received. I wonder what is actually happening at Saryg-Cen and its environs.

    • Just a followup:

      This report has video from Saryg-Cen which shows lids rocking on a counter from the quake and many people leaving buildings and waiting outside. Note: video is a slow download. I don't know what is said in the video. No flooding is shown, or damaged buildings. Saryg-Cen looks more like a big town than a village in the video; it is also the district's central town.

      Per this report and Google Translate, the quake caused the Mergen River to "burst its banks" and efforts are underway to build a dam to protect Saryg-Cen. Something about destroying ice, too. Machine translators leave much to be desired.

  2. Just read that on that the magnitude of this quake has been raised to a 9.5

    • Armand Vervaeck says:

      We have also brought the news, but we are far from sure that the MSK / MMI (not magnitude) number is right. WE agree the quake was extremely shallow and with this magnitude (Chinese have reported a 7.0) we are having the same values than in Turkey (also a similar type of earthquake). Luckily only dispersed houses in a vary wide area. As i was in Siberia before i know for sure that houses in that area are always 1 level houses (only ground floor) and a lot of them in wood. Saying all this i do not believe in more than an accidental fatality. Lets hope i am right. Armand

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