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Iran earthquakes kill 306, injures 3,037

  |   Aug. 13, 2012 at 7:15 AM
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TEHRAN, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- The toll from the two earthquakes that struck Iran has risen to 306 dead and 3,037 injured, Iranian Health Minister Marziyeh Vahid Dastjerdi said Monday.

Dastjerdi told Iranian lawmakers Monday 116 aftershocks had been registered in the country's East Azerbaijan province since 6.4- and 6.3-magnitude earthquakes rumbled Saturday, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

Abolhassan Faqih, an official with Iran's Red Crescent Society, said the two quakes "have damaged 230 villages in Varzaqan, Haris and Ahar regions from 70 [percent] to 100 percent."

The first phase of rescue operations -- the removal of the injured and dead from the rubble -- ended Sunday, Faqih said. The next phase would involve getting medical care, shelter and aid to survivors.

Survivors of Saturday's quakes have been advised to sleep outside in anticipation of more tremors, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Bulldozers have begun clearing the rubble left from several destroyed villages.

"Official rescues halted or seem to have stopped, as there is no hope of any alive to be unearthed, and the number of Red Crescent rescue team is not big enough and few of them are trained enough," one resident of the town of Varzaqan told the Times.

Iran is situated along several major faults in the Earth's crust, and is prone to earthquakes.

"Due to the traditional architecture of the villages, using clay bricks mixed with straw, rural areas have sustained most of the damage," said Reza Sedighi, Ahar's governor and head of the disaster relief center.

Residents in several regions report that emergency aid brought to the affected areas is insufficient, and survivors need of water, food, blankets and tents, the Times said.

Two days of mourning have been declared.

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