Source: Mehr News Agency
TABRIZ, Iran - So far at least 180 people have been killed and more than 1500 injured by two strong earthquakes measuring 6.2 and 6 on the Richter scale that hit the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan in succession on Saturday. The quakes struck at 4:53 p.m. and 5:04 p.m. local time.
Some of the casualties of the quake
The quakes struck near the city of Tabriz, the capital of East Azerbaijan province, and the town of A'har; however, most of the casualties are in nearby villages.
Varzaghan, East Azerbaijan province, Iran (View Larger Map )
The epicenters of the quakes were located 15 kilometers away from the city of Varzaqan, 511 kilometers northwest of Tehran.
According to the latest reports, 60 villages have suffered damages ranging between 50 to 80 percent.
And there are villages which have been completely destroyed. The roads to four villages in the region have also been cut.
The death toll may rise as rescuers are searching under the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors.
Many rescue workers have been sent to the affected regions but the darkness of night is hampering relief efforts.
"Unfortunately, a number of people are still under the rubble but darkness of night has made it very difficult to find them," said Gholamreza Masoumi, a Health Ministry official.
A number of aftershocks have hit the region and many of the local residents decided to spend the night outdoors due to fear that another jolt would hit.
The quakes had cut communication lines with villages in the A'har and Varzaqan regions and disrupted cell phone communications in Tabriz.
In addition, a gas pipeline has cracked in A'har, causing a fire hazard.
The quakes caused cracks in some buildings in Tabriz.
The quakes were also felt in the neighboring provinces of West Azerbaijan, Zanjan, Ardebil, and Gilan.
Iran is located on seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. An earthquake in the city of Bam in 2003 left 25,000 people dead.
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