Iran rescuers in quake-flattened villages

Aug. 12, 2012 at 5:44 PM
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TEHRAN, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The death toll from two earthquakes that rocked northwestern Iran rose to 250 Sunday with at least 2,000 others injured, government officials said.

The Saturday afternoon quakes and subsequent aftershocks damaged at least 110 villages in the province of East Azarbaijan, Deputy Interior Minister Hassan Qaddami told the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Four villages in Ahar region and 12 villages in Varzaqan region were completely destroyed, local officials said.

The first earthquake at 4 p.m. near Tabriz, the country's fourth-largest city, measured 6.2 on the Richter scale and the second, about an hour later, measured 6.0, officials said.

Early Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said there had been an aftershock measuring 4.0 in the same area, but there were no immediate details of injuries or damage.

The Iranian Red Crescent Society said it had distributed more than 5,600 tents as the government urged people in the region to stay outdoors, Fars said.

At a news conference in Tehran, Deputy Interior Minister Hassan Ghadami said the disaster scene was under control.

"All those under debris have been rescued and the quake-stricken people are now being provided with their basic needs," he said.

The White House offered condolences for the tragedy and offered to send assistance.

"Our thoughts are with the families of those who were lost, and we wish the wounded a speedy recovery," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. "We stand ready to offer assistance in this difficult time."

Iran straddles several seismic fault lines prone to earthquakes. In 2003, more than 25,000 people in the city of Bam were killed by a major quake.

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