At least 80 dead, 400 injured in northwest Iran quakes
Posted on August 12, 2012, Sunday
TEHRAN, IRAN: Two strong quakes in quick succession struck towns and destroyed villages in northwest Iran killing at least 80 people and injuring hundreds on Saturday, officials said.
With the toll preliminary, the scale of the disaster was still emerging. Officials had to use radios because of disrupted telephone communications in the region and dispatched helicopters to remote villages.
The head of the regional natural disasters centre, Khalil Saie, told state television that, as well as the 80 fatalities so far, some 400 people were injured.
The quakes measured 6.2 and 6.0 on the moment magnitude scale, according to Tehran University’s Seismological Centre.
The US Geological Survey, which monitors seismic activity worldwide, ranked them as more powerful than that, at 6.4 and 6.3, respectively.
“We are asking people to not panic,” Saie said. “Help is arriving and rescuers are already at the scene.”
Those hurt were being taken to hospitals in Tabriz and Ardebil, the two biggest nearby cities, both of which escaped relatively unscathed by the temblors.
The towns of Ahar and Varzaqan, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Tabriz, were the hardest hit, being closest to the epicentres of the quakes. Heris, another town close to the two others, was also badly shaken.
There were “30 deaths in Ahar, 40 deaths in Varzaqan and 10 deaths in Heris,” Saei said.
“Sixty villages have been 60 to 80 percent destroyed and four villages were 100 percent destroyed,” he said.
Allahverdi Dehqani, a lawmaker in Varzaqan, confirmed that “most of the villages around Varzaqan have been damaged.”
Residents in the region were terrified as their homes shook around them when the quakes hit, and they fled into the streets for safety, according to reports.
Rescue operations were continuing into the night.
Tehran University’s Seismological Centre said the first earthquake hit at 4:53 pm (1223 GMT) with an epicentre just 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Tabriz, close to the town of Ahar, and at a depth of 10 kilometres.
The second — a big aftershock — rumbled through just 11 minutes later from nearly the same spot. A series of 17 smaller aftershocks rating 4.7 or below rapidly followed.
Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes, some of which have been devastating.
The deadliest was a 6.6-magnitude quake which struck the southern city of Bam in December 2003, killing 31,000 people — about a quarter of the population — and destroying the city’s ancient mud-built citadel. –AFP