Death toll rises in Iran earthquakes

Aug. 11, 2012 at 6:17 PM
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TABRIZ, Iran, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- At least 180 people were killed and 1,530 injured Saturday by two powerful earthquakes that destroyed villages in northwestern Iran, officials said.

An earthquake measuring 6.4 magnitude on the Richter scale jolted the county of Ahar in East Azerbaijan province at 4:53 p.m. A second earthquake measuring 6.3 magnitude struck shortly after, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The quakes were followed by dozens of aftershocks, Iran's semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.

Deputy Interior Minister Hassan Qaddami told Fars deaths were reported in the city of Ahar, the city of Varzaqan and the town of Haris.

The head of the country's emergency services told the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency 400 people were taken to Tabriz, home to Iran's Azeri Turkish-speaking minority, for treatment of their injuries, The New York Times reported.

Four villages were completely destroyed and 60 others sustained serious damage, an official told Iran's state-run television, Fars said.

The region is in dire need of water, food and tents, officials said. Residents were asked to spend the night outside for fear of more aftershocks.

The USGS said the first quake was centered 20 miles from Ahar and the second was about 14 miles away.

Iran, located where several tectonic plates come together, is one of the most geologically active places on Earth with a history of devastating earthquakes.

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