MOSCOW — A strong earthquake in the Soviet central Asian republic of Tadzhikistan set off a landslide which buried two mountain villages, killing at least 1,400 people on Monday. A spokesman at the Tadzhik representation in Moscow said the quake, which occurred at 5:02 a.m., had also caused extensive damage to two more villages. He said the casualty figures were preliminary.
The official Soviet news agency Tass said the quake had centered on the village of Sharora, 30 miles southwest of the republic's capital, Dushanbe. It said the quake measured seven on the 12-point Soviet scale.
Tass said there was ``destruction and casualties'' but gave no details. It said the clay houses typical of the region close to the border with Afghanistan had suffered particular damage.
``Almost everybody died,'' said Zainiddin Nasreddinov, editor-in-chief of the official Tadzhikistan news agency, who visited the village of Sharora. After the quake, a wall of dirt and mud slid from a nearby hill and buried Sharora, he said.
Seventy more people were estimated to have died in the villages of Akulibolo and Akulipoyen, located at the epicenter 20 miles from Dushanbe, the capital of the republic.
``Everything is destroyed -- all the homes, the schools, the hospitals and clinics, the stores,'' the spokesman said.
Communications, electricity, and water were disrupted and many injured were sent to hospitals in Dushanbe and other large cities.
Tadzhikistan lies in the middle of a seismically active zone, and many buildings are designed specially to withstand earth tremors. In 1985 an earthquake caused severe damage and thousands of casualties in the Tadzhik city of Kairakkum.
A powerful earthquake struck the southern Soviet republic of Armenia last month, killing at least 25,000 people.