Monday, August 13, 2012

Iran earthquake relief effortsbegin after 250 killed

Relief operations are under way in Iran after two strong earthquakes in the north- west left at least 250 people dead and more than 2,000 injured. The 6.4 and 6.3 quakes struck near Tabriz and Ahar in in East Azerbaijan province on Saturday afternoon, followed by dozens of aftershocks. More than 100 villages suffered damage - thousands of people spent the night in emergency shelters or in the open. Relief agencies are providing survivors with tents, bread and drinking water. The BBC's Mohsen Asgari in the capital Tehran says hundreds of people were rescued overnight, but that the aftershocks had made the operation exhausting. By midday on Sunday, Deputy Interior Minister Hassan Ghadami said that "all those under debris have been rescued and the quake-stricken people are now being provided with their basic needs". Our correspondent says the operation could be completely quickly because villagers knew each other well so knew where to search, and because the houses were small. 'Mass grave' The towns of Haris and Varzaqan were also among those hit and one resident of Tabriz told the BBC: "The quake has created huge panic among the people. Everyone has rushed to the streets." But local officials said all the deaths have been in rural areas, not in the main towns and cities. The official Fars news agency reported that about 110 villages had been damaged. At least were four totally flattened and 60 others sustained extensive damage. "This village is a mass grave," said Alireza Haidaree, who had been searching for survivors in Baje Baj village. "There are so many other villages that have been completely destroyed," he told AFP. Reports said rescuers attempting to contact remote villages had to do so by radio as many phone lines were cut off.

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