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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Algerian Quake Kills at Least 147

ALGIERS, Algeria -- An earthquake struck northwest Algeria Thursday, killing at least 147 people and injuring 289, local rescue officials said.

The quake, which hit about 400 kilometers west of Algiers, registered a preliminary magnitude of 5.6, according to the Algerian Center for Astrophysical Research. A quake of such strength can cause widespread structural damage and take a considerable human toll in populated areas.

Several aftershocks followed, the strongest of which had a preliminary magnitude of 5.1. Fear of aftershocks drove thousands of people to flee their homes and spend the night in the street.

Homes built of mud-and-straw brick collapsed with the first shake, and between 8,000 and 10,000 people were left without shelter, according to rescue officials, quoted on national radio.

Officials appealed for blood donations and warned that drinking water could soon be in short supply.

The British Geological Survey said the quake hit at 2:13 A.M. local time and registered a 5.2 magnitude. Its epicenter was not far from the city of Sig.

"The people must have been killed by something -- usually it's by falling masonry," said geologist John Lovell of the British organization.

"This is nothing unusual for the area," Lovell said. "The whole of the Mediterranean is susceptible to quite large earthquakes from time to time because of the shifting tectonic plates."

Hardest hit were Bou Hanifia, a hot springs resort, and Bou Henni, the radio said. The quake also struck the city of Mascara and was felt in Oran, the regional capital on the coast about 100 kilometers north of Mascara.

Rescue work was hampered because many roads were blocked by debris, they said.

The last earthquake in Algeria hit the Tipaza region 70 kilometers west of Algier, leaving 30 people dead and several hundred homeless. Numerous homes in the Casbah, Algiers' old section of town, collapsed.