Several deaths reported in Iran quake

At least 38 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck western Iran before dawn on Friday, wiping out villages and sending panicked residents fleeing from their homes.

Another 700 people were also injured in the quake, which hit the province of Lorestan near the border with Iraq with a force of six on the Richter scale, state television quoted a local official as saying.

About 200 villages suffered 40% to 100% damage in the quake, which struck between the towns of Dorud and Borujerd, the unnamed official said, adding that ancient buildings in Borujerd were damaged.

State media quoted the local official as saying that blankets, tents and medical supplies are urgently needed for the survivors.

Media reported that the weather is now sunny, but that inhabitants of Dorud and Borujerd, terrified by the successive tremors, spent much of the night in parks in cool temperatures.

State television reported that rescue workers have been sent to the most devastated areas and that the number of casualties is expected to increase.

However, local officials expect the rescue mission to be completed by nightfall, although more aftershocks are expected.

The tremor registering six on the Richter scale struck at 4.47am local time following two others measuring 4,7 and 5,1, Iranian television quoted the national seismological institute as saying.

The Strasbourg observatory in eastern France announced an earthquake measuring 5,5 on the Richter scale in western Iran at 1.16am GMT. It situated the epicentre at 32,86 degrees north and 48,30 degrees east.

Iranian television said the quake caused an electricity blackout in Dorud, where the inhabitants rushed out into the streets in panic.

The tremor was felt as far away as Hamedan in the province of the same name to the north.

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

The worst temblor in recent times hit Bam in the south of the country in December 2003, killing 31 000 people, about a quarter of the city’s population, and destroying the city’s ancient, mud-built citadel.

The most recent quake measuring six on the Richter scale shook a sparsely populated region of south Iran on March 25, killing one person in a landslide and damaging houses in the mountainous Kouhshab region.—Sapa-AFP

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