Death toll in Iran quake at 153
Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Iran today, killing 153 people and injuring more than 1,300 as buildings were reduced to rubble, Iranian officials said.
Thousands fled their homes and remained outdoors as at least 20 aftershocks hit the area.
Casualty numbers could well rise, Iranian officials feared, as some of the injured are in a critical condition, others are still trapped under the rubble and rescuers have yet to reach some of the affected villag
The US Geological Survey measured the first quake at 6.4 magnitude and said it struck 60 km northeast of the city of Tabriz at a depth of 9.9km at 12.34 GMT (1.34pm Irish time).
It said a second earthquake measuring 6.3 struck 49 km (30 miles) northeast of Tabriz 11 minutes later at a similar depth. Three lesser aftershocks have followed since then.
Deputy Interior Minister Hassan Ghadami said 153 people had been killed and provincial official Khalil Sa'ie said some 1,300 had been injured, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Some 210 people in Varzaghan and Ahar have been rescued from under the rubble of collapsed buildings, the official IRNA news agency said, quoting a local official.
A local provincial official urged people in the region to stay outdoors during the night for fear of aftershocks, according to the official IRNA news agency. By early evening, ISNA said there had been at least 10 aftershocks.
Other reports said the earthquake had broken telephone communications, making rescue efforts more problematic.
Iran is straddled by several major fault lines and has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent times, the last which struck the city of Bam in 2003, killing more than 25,000 people.