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Up to 400 dead in Iran quake
Tue. 22 Feb 2005
By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN - A strong earthquake has hit southeast Iran, killing almost 400 people, injuring hundreds and destroying villages, a local official has told Reuters.
Tuesday's quake, which measured 6.4 on the Richter scale, was centred on the town of Zarand in Kerman province, about 700 km (440 miles) southeast of Tehran.
While villages were razed, major settlements in the area appeared to have escaped heavy damage so the toll would not be as high as the many thousands killed in some past quakes in Iran of a similar strength, officials said.
"Figures we have show that in the early hours more than 1,000 were injured and almost 400 killed," said Ali Komsari, a spokesman for the Kerman provincial governor's office.
State radio, quoting other local officials, said 104 had been killed and hundreds injured.
"We are expecting the death toll to rise," Ali Sharifi, head of Kerman's medical university, told radio.
The head of Kerman Natural Disaster Headquarters, Mohsen Salehi, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying destruction in five villages was between 20 and 70 percent.
The tremor, which struck at 5:55 a.m. (2:25 a.m. British time), evoked memories of the devastating earthquake which hit the desert citadel city of Bam, about 250 km (160 miles) southeast of Zarand in December 2003.
The pre-dawn Bam quake, which had a magnitude of 6.7, flattened the city, killing some 31,000 people.
Criss-crossed by several major fault lines, Iran is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, natural disaster experts say.
But damage in major urban centres on Tuesday was light.
"In Zarand and Kerman only some walls have collapsed and there were no casualties," Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said.
Kerman Governor Mohammad Ali Karimi told television that aid groups had been sent to the villages but he had not yet asked for any help from other provinces.
No major oil or gas production facilities are located in the affected area in OPEC's second largest oil producer.
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