At least 180 people were killed and 1,300 others injured in two strong earthquakes that jolted northwestern Iran Saturday near the city of Tabriz, state-run news agencies said.
Iran’s state-run Press TV said 180 people had died. Officials feared the casualties would rise.
The city of Ahar was home to 45 of the deaths and 500 of the injured, a local official told state-run IRNA media.
The first earthquake, a magnitude 6.4, hit at 4:53 p.m. local time 37 miles northeast of Tabriz, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Just 11 minutes later a second quake, measuring 6.3, struck 30 miles northeast of Tabriz.
Authorities reported 17 aftershocks in the region, state-run IRNA media said. The USGS reported 10 aftershocks.
The quakes affected Tabriz, the capital of East Azarbaijan province, and nearby cities. It razed four villages and another 60 villages sustained heavy damage, Fars said.
Initial reports said some buildings in Tabriz suffered structural damage and power lines were down. Telephone lines were down in Ahar, the quake’s epicenter. The extent of the damage was still being assessed.
Authorities dispatched rescue teams to the area.
Press TV broadcast images of collapsed buildings and makeshift medical stations set up in the streets. In scenes broadcast by state-run IRINN, people lying on blankets were administered intravenous fluids.
Iran sits on major fault lines — the collision of the Arabia and Eurasia plates –– and has been prone to devastating earthquakes.
In 2003, 30,000 people died in an earthquake in Bam in southeastern Kerman province. In 1990, about 50,000 were killed in a quake that hit near the Caspian Sea.