Tehran: The death toll from twin earthquakes in Iran has risen to 250, Iranian state television said on Sunday, while over 2,000 were injured and thousands spent the night outdoors after the quake levelled villages and damaged homes in the country's north-west.
Images broadcast on the main news channel showed dozens of families of sleeping on blankets laid out on the ground in parks. Some were crying, others shivering from chilly weather in the mountainous region hit by the quake, near neighbouring Azerbaijan.
Rescuers worked through the night to free people trapped under rubble and reach some of the more remote villages. Television also showed people being evacuated on stretchers to hospitals and clinics, while others underwent treatment on hospital beds.
The US Geological Survey reported that Saturday's first quake at 4:53 pm (5:53 GMT) had a magnitude of 6.4 and struck 37 miles (60 kms) northeast of the city of Tabriz at a depth of 9.9 kms (6.2 miles). State TV quoted local Crisis Committee chief Khalil Saei as saying the epicentre was a region between the towns of Ahar and Haris, about 200 miles (500 kms) northwest of the capital Tehran.
The second quake with a magnitude of 6.3 struck 11 minutes later, the USGS reported. Its epicentre was 29 miles (48 kms) northeast of Tabriz at a depth of 6.1 miles (9.8 kms).
The quakes hit the towns of Ahar, Haris and Varzaqan in East Azerbaijan province, Iranian television reported. At least six villages were totally levelled, and 60 others sustained damage ranging from 50 to 80 per cent, it said.
At least 10 aftershocks jolted the same area and were felt in a wide region near the Caspian Sea, causing panic among the population.
Iran is located on seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. It experiences at least one earthquake every day on average, although the vast majority are so small they go unnoticed.
In 2003, some 26,000 people were killed by a magnitude 6.6 quake that flattened the historic south-eastern city of Bam.
Story first published:
August 12, 2012 14:20 IST