Most of the victims were killed by falling debris or furniture in homes and apartment buildings, said Oleg Grekov, a regional emergency official.

More than 60 people sought medical help in the hardest hit Chechen towns, which included Grozny and Gudermes, he said.

Russia's Caucasus Mountain region only sees occasional earthquakes and most buildings are not reinforced against severe structural shocks.

Chechnya is one of Russia's poorest regions, having suffered through two devastating wars in the past 15 years.