Huge quake hits Iran, conflicting casualty reports

Reuters, DUBAI

Wed, Apr 17, 2013 - Page 1

A powerful earthquake struck southeast Iran near the border with Pakistan yesterday, but with communications to the area badly disrupted, officials gave differing assessments of the casualty toll.

One Iranian official said hundreds of people were feared to have been killed. However, an Iranian lawmaker from the region said the number of deaths was “not high.”

A Pakistani official said at least five people been killed in Pakistan.

Tremors from the magnitude 7.8 quake were also felt as far away as India and Gulf states.

The quake was centered in a remote desert and mountain region that is not densely populated. Assessing the damage was difficult due to the collapse in the communications network.

“It was the biggest earthquake in Iran in 40 years and we are expecting hundreds of dead,” said an Iranian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Iranian politician Hamid Reza Pashang told the Mehr news agency: “From what we have heard from people in the stricken areas, we have learned that the number of deaths is not high.”

“I have talked to the people of Zabul, Saravan, Khash and other areas hit by the earthquake and they have said, the earthquake was not of a kind to cause many deaths,” he said.

It was not clear how he had reached them, given the breakdown in power and communications.

Iranian state television said at least 40 people were killed, but acknowledged it had no official confirmation. People in the city of Zahedan poured into the streets when the quake struck, Iran’s Fars news agency reported. It also said Saravan city had not suffered serious damage.

The US Geological Survey said the quake hit at 3:14pm at a depth of 15.2km. The epicenter was 201km southeast of Zahedan and 250km northwest of Turbat in Pakistan, it said.

It was the second big quake to hit Iran in a week.