Sakhalin earthquake renews concerns about seismic safety in the former Soviet Union



On May 28,1995, a shallow, Ms = 7.6 earthquake struck the northeastern portion of Sakhalin Island, which lies north of Japan in the western part of the Sea of Okhotsk. Most of the oil town of Neftegorsk (Figure 1) was leveled; of its 3000 inhabitants, as many as 2000 may have died. This earthquake is the worst natural disaster to strike the former Soviet Union since 1988, when an Ms = 6.8 earthquake occurred in a populated region of Armenia, killing more than 25,000.

Building damage was reported as far north as Okha, 125 kilometers north of Neftegorsk. Ground shaking ruptured the main oil pipeline in at least twelve places between the epicentral area and Okha, and caused the spillage of oil from a storage tank.