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Saturday, May 8, 1999 Published at 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK


World: Middle East

Iran quake kills 27



The death toll from Friday's earthquake in the south of Iran is now put at 27.

Rescue workers say more than 100 people were injured by the quake which struck the region around the city of Shiraz on Friday.

The earthquake, which measured 6.5 on the Richter scale, struck villages in a mountainous area southwest of Shiraz.

The initial quake was followed by dozens of aftershocks - the most powerful of which read 5.4 on the Richter scale.

'Heavy damage'

The governor of Fars province, Gholamreza Sahraian, said that 20 villages and many roads, water installations, schools and rural clinics had been severely damaged.

"There has been heavy damage, partly due to the earthquake's power and partly because the buildings in the area were unstable," he told Tehran radio.

The head of the Natural Disasters Headquarters, Hasan Momtahen, said that most of the dead were children who had been killed when their homes collapsed.

All of the injured had been evacuated from the stricken area by 1000 local time (0630GMT), Tehran radio said.

Some of the injured were transported to hospitals in Shiraz, the provincial capital.

Debris

Residents in Shiraz said they were woken by a severe jolt at about 0400 local time (0030GMT).

The official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said many sleeping villagers had been forced to dig their way out of the debris of their homes.

Many spent the night outdoors or wandered the streets in states of shock.

One villager told state television: "We were sleeping and hardly had time to get our children out of our homes. We are in shock and our village is a ruin."

IRNA said: "The sound of cries and moaning were heard from families who were on the streets of the villages, obviously disoriented and disturbed."

Rescue operation

The news agency added that the Red Crescent had immediately sent rescuers to the villages west of Shiraz which had suffered the worst damage.

Rescue teams from the armed forces and the provincial natural disaster organisation were also on the way.

Some 1,000 blankets and 150 tents have already reached villages in the worst-affected areas, where between 40% and 100% of homes were reportedly destroyed.

Earthquakes are a regular occurrence in Iran, which is located in one of the world's major quake zones.

Some 1,600 people lost their lives in an earthquake in eastern Iran in May 1997 and a quake in February of the same year left 1,000 people dead in the northwest of the country.



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