180 die, 1,300 hurt in Iran quakes |
Gulf Times - 12 August, 2012
Rescue teams in northwest Iran were striving yesterday to dig survivors out of the rubble of twin strong earthquakes that levelled villages and killed at least 180 people and injured 1,300 others, according to an official toll.
The scale of the disaster was still emerging as rescue operations in the devastated zone northeast of the city of Tabriz pushed through the night after yesterday’s quakes.
With telephone communications interrupted by the quakes, emergency teams were relying on radios and travelling in person to hard-hit villages to assess and rescue.
The quakes, which struck within 11 minutes of each other, measured 6.2 and 6.0 on the moment magnitude scale, according to Tehran University’s Seismological Centre.
The US Geological Survey, which monitors seismic activity worldwide, ranked them as more powerful than that, at 6.4 and 6.3, respectively.
“Unfortunately, the toll is mounting and we are now at 180 dead and some 1,300 injured,” Khalil Saie, the head of the regional natural disasters centre, told state television.
“Up to now, there are no deaths reported in the cities and all the victims come from rural areas,” he said.
Earlier he told the television: “We are asking people to not panic. Help is arriving and rescuers are already at the scene.”
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office posted a statement on its website expressing condolences to those in the disaster zone and calling on authorities to “mobilise all efforts to help the affected populations.”
According to the local Red Crescent, cited by the official news agency Irna, at least 210 people had already been rescued and taken to hospital.
An emergency services official said 66 rescue teams were at work, using 40 devices and seven dog squads to detect buried survivors. He said 185 ambulances had been sent to the area.
Those hurt were taken to hospitals in Tabriz and Ardebil, the two biggest nearby cities, both of which escaped relatively unscathed by the temblors.
Villages outlying the towns of Ahar and Varzaqan, 60km from Tabriz, were decimated, being closest to the epicentres of the two quakes. Dwellings close to Heris, another town close by, were also badly shaken.
Residents in the region were terrified as their homes shook around them when the quakes hit, and they fled into the streets for safety, according to reports.
Photographs posted by Iranian news websites showed about a dozen bodies lying on the floor in the corner of a white-tiled morgue in Ahar, and medical staff, surrounded by anxious residents, working on the injured in the open air as dusk fell.
“I was just on the phone talking to my mother when she said ‘there’s just been an earthquake’, then the line was cut,” one woman from Tabriz, who lives outside Iran, wrote on Facebook after telephoning her mother in the city.
Tehran University’s Seismological Centre said the first earthquake occurred at 4.53pm (1223 GMT) with an epicentre just 60km from Tabriz, close to Ahar, and at a depth of 10km.
The second—actually a big aftershock—rumbled through from nearly the same spot. A series of more than 17 smaller aftershocks rating 4.7 or less rapidly followed.
The disaster zone was located around 90km from the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan, and around 190km from the border with Turkey.
Fars news agency quoted lawmaker Abbas Falahi as saying he believed rescue workers had not yet been able to reach between 10 and 20 villages.
A local provincial official urged people in the region to stay outdoors during the night for fear of aftershocks, according to Irna. Falahi said people in the region were in need of bread, tents and drinking water.