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Earthquake claims 153 lives in Iran

Tehran: Atleast 153 people died while more than 600 hurt as heavy earthquake hit northwest Iran on Saturday.

As per details, two strong earthquakes hit northwest Iran in quick succession, cutting communications and sending panicked residents into flight, 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.

“Our access to villages have been cut and we can only contact them by radio transceiver,” Mahmoud Mozaffar, head of Iran s Rescue and Relief Organisation, told the Mehr news agency.

“No figure for casualties has been announced but injured are being transferred to hospital,” he said. “Helicopters and rescuers are on their way to villages.”

A spokesman for Tabriz s fire department told the ISNA news agency that “most parts of Tabriz have no electricity… and there is a heavy traffic jam in the city.”

The university s seismological centre said the first earthquake hit at 4:53pm (1223 GMT) with an epicentre just 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Tabriz, close to the town of Ahar.

The second — a big aftershock — rumbled through just 11 minutes later from nearly the same spot. Both occurred at a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles). A series of five smaller aftershocks rapidly followed, the centre said.

The US Geological Survey, which monitors earthquakes worldwide, confirmed the two initial temblors. It agreed the first 6.2 measured moment magnitude scale measuring energy released but gave an even bigger 6.3 for the first aftershock.

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.

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