Between 250 and 300 people were killed in northwest Iran after a series of earthquakes struck on Saturday, Iranian state-run media said.
A magnitude-6.3 and a magnitude-6.4 quake struck in the early morning southwest of the cities of Ahar and Tabriz, which are located near Iran’s borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan, the U.S. Geological Survey said. A number of aftershocks also were recorded after the two quakes struck.
Most of the casualties were recorded in nearby villages, the semi-official Mehr News Agency said, citing the the Interior Ministry. Around 60 villages suffered damage “ranging between 50 to 80 percent,” the news agency said, without elaborating.
State-run Press TV reported that at least 2,000 people were injured. Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that 250 and 300 people were killed in the quakes.
Seven teams were dispatched in East Azerbaijan Province, where the quakes hit, to assess damage and carry out rescue missions for missing persons, IRNA said.
“Unfortunately, a number of people are still under the rubble but darkness of night has made it very difficult to find them,” Gholamreza Masoumi, an Iranian health official, told Mehr.
At the same time, communications lines were cut in the region around Ahar and Tabriz, the news agency said. A gas pipeline was also cracked by the quake in Ahar and is a potential fire hazard.
Iran, an earthquake-prone country, sits on a number of fault lines and experiences small quakes on a near-daily basis. In 2003, approximately 27,000 people died and more were injured when a 6.6-magnitude quake struck the southeastern portion of the country, while in 1990, about 40,000 people died in a powerful earthquake.
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