Two strong quakes have shaken Iran’s northwest, leaving 180 people dead and 1300 injured, state-run Press TV reports. The quakes have also disrupted communications, complicating rescue efforts.
The quakes, measuring 6.4 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, struck near the towns of Tabriz and Ahar. However, most of the dead are thought to be in the surrounding villages.
“Our access to villages have been cut and we can only contact them by radio transceiver,” Mahmoud Mozaffar, head of Iran’s Rescue and Relief Organisation, told the Mehr news agency. He added that “helicopters and rescuers are on their way to villages.”
Iran’s main news channel said the quake hit the towns of Ahar, Haris and Varzaqan in East Azerbaijan province at 4:53 p.m. local time (12:23 GMT ), AP reports.
A spokesman for Tabriz’s fire department told the ISNA news agency that “most parts of Tabriz have no electricity… and there is a heavy traffic jam in the city.”
“Sixty villages… have been heavily damaged and are in need of help,” Abbas Fallah, a lawmaker in the hard-hit town of Ahar, told local reporters.
Meanwhile, the Iranian Press TV channel said at least 60 villages sustained damage ranging from 50 to 80 percent, while 6 other villages have been totally leveled to the ground.
The tremors were felt in neighboring Azerbaijan, according to the local Seismology Institute, but no casualties have been reported.
Iran is generally susceptible to earthquakes, being situated on seismic fault lines. Tremors hit the country every day, but the majority of them are so insignificant that they go unnoticed.
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.
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