Villagers shelter in tents after Iran quake

Iranian rescue workers handed out blankets, food and water on Monday to survivors of a powerful earthquake on a Gulf island that killed 10 people and forced villagers to spend the night in tents.

Power was restored to the afflicted villages on the Gulf island of Qeshm after a blackout caused by the quake, which struck on Sunday with a force of about six on the Richter scale.

“We have distributed the needed tents, blankets, fresh water and food to survivors,” the governor general of Hormouzgan province, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, told state television.

He said 30 of the 80 wounded remained in hospital after the tremor, which destroyed or damaged an estimated 1 500 mud-brick houses in about 15 villages on the island and was felt across the Gulf in the United Arab Emirates.

“Most of the buildings in the villages are not safe to live in any more. However, by nightfall all those who need tents will be provided with one,” the head of the provincial natural-disaster service, Massoud Dalman, said.

Qeshm island governor Heydar Alishbandi said 10 people were killed and that the death toll is not expected to rise further.

“Around 1 000 people are housed temporarily in tents and another 2 000 are waiting to be housed,” he said, adding that the weather was warm with temperatures of about 28 degrees Celsius.

“We are not facing shortages and the relief operations are going smoothly.”

Some panicked residents of the island, which is situated off the coast from the large port city of Bandar Abbas and is home to about 100 000 people, slept outside after a second quake jolted the area several hours later.

The rocky and barren island was hit almost two years after the south-eastern city of Bam—situated 300km to the north—was destroyed in a quake that killed tens of thousands of people.

State news agency Irna quoted the head of Qeshm’s free-trade zone, Ali Rezapour, as saying the quake caused damage estimated at about $54-million, with 50 schools and about 1 500 houses rendered unsafe.

Qeshm, located 1 150km south-east of Tehran, has a busy commercial and fishing port and is a popular weekend sunshine getaway for Iranian tourists.

Airport chief Ali Naghavi was quoted by Irna as saying that operations had resumed after being halted on Sunday.

The island’s main town, also called Qeshm, was not damaged. The most affected villages were identified as Gabardin, Tonban, Karvan, Tourian and Khaldin—all situated in the less densely populated west of the island.

Iran sits astride several major faults in the earth’s crust, and is prone to frequent earthquakes.

In February, a quake measuring 6,4 on the Richter scale hit the southern town of Zarand, killing 612 people and wounding about 1 400.

In December 2003, the south-eastern city of Bam was razed by a 6,7-degree quake that left more than 31 000 people dead.

Mehdi Zareh, the head of Iran’s Seismic Research Centre, said there was no tsunami risk from the latest quake.

“Because the Persian Gulf is not very deep, a tsunami is not expected,” he told the student news agency Isna.—Sapa-AFP

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