Two strong earthquakes hit northwest Iran in quick succession on Saturday, injuring dozens of people in scores of villages and sending panicked residents fleeing from their homes, officials said.
The temblors, which struck near the city of Tabriz, home to 1.5 million people, measured 6.2 and 6.0 on the moment magnitude scale, according to Tehran University’s Seismological Centre.
The US Geological Survey, which monitors quakes worldwide, ranked them as more powerful than that, at 6.4 and 6.3, respectively.
Tabriz itself escaped unscathed apart from observed cracks in buildings.
But nearby villages were “a source of concern,” regional governor Ahmad Alireza Beigi told state television, adding he was unable as yet to give an overall injury toll.
“Sixty villages… have been heavily damaged and are in need of help,” one lawmaker in the hard-hit town of Ahar, Abbas Fallah, told the Mehr news agency.
Morteza Akbarpour, a crisis management official at the interior ministry, told the Fars news agency “there are no reports of deaths so far.”
He added that 50 hurt people from one town, Varazqan, were taken to hospital.
Allahverdi Dehqani, a lawmaker in Varazqan, confirmed to Mehr that “most of the villages around Varazqan have been damaged.”
Tehran University’s Seismological Centre said the first earthquake hit at 4:53 pm (1223 GMT) with an epicentre just 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Tabriz, close to the town of Ahar, and a depth of 10 kilometres.
The second — a big aftershock — rumbled through just 11 minutes later from nearly the same spot. A series of 11 smaller aftershocks rating 4.7 or below rapidly followed.
Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes, some of which have been devastating.
The deadliest was a 6.6-magnitude quake which struck the southern city of Bam in December 2003, killing 31,000 people — about a quarter of the population — and destroying the city’s ancient mud-built citadel.