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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 17:06 GMT
Hundreds killed in Iranian quake
Woman walks in front of an earthquake-damaged house in Reyhanshahr on the outskirts of Zarand, Iran
There are fears that many people are buried under the rubble
A strong earthquake has hit dozens of villages in southern Iran, killing at least 500 people and hurting many more.

The 6.4-magnitude quake struck just before 0600 (0230 GMT) and was centred near Zarand in Kerman province, 740km (460 miles) from the capital, Tehran.

Some 30,000 people in about 40 villages spread over a wide, mountainous area have been affected.

Casualties are expected to rise in the province and heavy rain is hampering rescue work.


State-run television in Iran and the local governor's office in Kerman said more than 500 people died as a result of the earthquake, which lasted 11 seconds.

The authorities say they have now recovered 231 bodies.

Reports say 200 people were killed in one village.

About 1,000 people are said to have been injured, but casualty figures are still rising.

The head of Zarand hospital earlier said 5,000 people were injured, but Iran's interior ministry says that number includes people who received first aid for very minor injuries.


The authorities say three villages are very badly damaged with almost all of their buildings affected.

In another 30 villages, about a third of the structures have been damaged or destroyed. The road to one of the villages, which had been cut off by a landslide caused by the earthquake, has now been cleared.

In that village, which has a population of 1,500, there was a religious gathering under way at the time of the earthquake and it is feared many of those who took part may be buried under the rubble there, reports the BBC's Frances Harrison in Tehran.

Eleven rescue teams have been sent to the area comprising police, military - including eight mountain climbing experts - and helicopters.

The emergency services say rescues were helped by the fact that they were already on alert because of heavy snow and rain in the country.

Helicopters have found it difficult to fly, but some are able to ferry the wounded to hospital.

Authorities say it may take up to three days to clear rubble because of the poor weather in the area.

26 December 2004: Hundreds of thousands killed in Asian tsunami following quake off Indonesia
26 December 2003: More than 26,000 die in Bam, southern Iran
26 January 2001: Nearly 20,000 killed, more than a million homeless in Gujarat, India
17 August 1999: Earthquake in Izmit and Istanbul, Turkey, kills more than 17,000
21 June 1990: Around 40,000 die in tremor in Gilan, Iran

The governor of the province says communications have been affected, but work to restore them is under way.

People in the area have been asked to stay outdoors despite the heavy rain for fear of aftershocks, and they have been told not to use mobile telephones except for emergencies to prevent a breakdown in the service.

Gas has been shut off in the area as a precaution, and school buildings have been closed, with classes being held outdoors, our correspondent says.

The interior ministry says there have already been 20 aftershocks.


The epicentre of the latest quake is about 200km (120 miles) north-west of Bam, where some 30,000 people were killed when a powerful earthquake levelled the historic city in 2003.

The casualties in Tuesday's quake could have been far worse had it struck a major city instead of a more sparsely populated area, our correspondent says.

She also says the focus of this earthquake was four times deeper underground than in Bam, lessening the impact.

Iran has at least a minor earthquake almost every day.

The United Nations says Iran is the worst-hit country in the world in terms of earthquakes.

Seismologists say this is because Iran is at the confluence of three of the Earth's plates, and is literally being squeezed by them.

See the damage caused by the earthquake

Survivors recall Iran quake loss
25 Dec 04 |  Middle East
Recovery brings social change to Bam
09 Aug 04 |  Middle East
Concealed fault caused Bam quake
15 Jun 04 |  Science/Nature
Iran lowers Bam earthquake toll
29 Mar 04 |  Middle East


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