Iran and Pakistan were hit by a major earthquake centered on the region straddling their common border and felt as far away as Dubai and Delhi.
The quake struck at 3:14 p.m. local time yesterday and was measured at 7.8 by the U.S. Geological Survey. Iranian seismologists put it at 7.7, and said its epicenter was in the mountainous eastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, according to state-run television. State media gave conflicting reports on the numbers of dead and injured.
Much of Iran lies close to geological fault-lines and is prone to earthquakes. A major tremor in 2003 flattened the southern city of Bam and killed about 40,000 people. A smaller quake last week hit the province of Bushehr and raised concerns about the safety of the nuclear plant located there.
Hedayatollah Mir-Moradzehi, a lawmaker who represents Saravan, together with Iran’s Press TV initially said that 40 people had died, though Iranian state television said later that the number came from foreign media. A woman died in Iran after she was hit by falling mountain debris, the Iranian Students News Agency said today, citing local officials.
Mohammad-Sharif Khalegi, governor of Saravan, told the channel that the number of injured people was 27. The injured totaled 12 and only four had to be hospitalized, state television said late yesterday, citing Hatam Narouei, the Sistan and Baluchestan governor. At least 21 people died in Pakistan, state-run television said.
Casualties may be limited because the region is sparsely populated, said Mohamed Sarvar, deputy head of emergency services, according to Fars news agency. Morteza Moradipour, a Red Crescent official, said because the quake had a depth of 95 kilometers (59 miles), its impact was similar to that of a magnitude 4 event, state-run Mehr said.
Water services, electricity and telephone communications were fixed in 30 minutes, Narouei told state television. He said the center of the quake was an unpopulated desert area and that urban areas of Saravan suffered minor damage.
There are about 1,700 villages in the Saravan area, state television reported, and Fars said many houses there are made of mud brick that can easily crumble in a quake.
“Much of the population in the region probably live in buildings particularly vulnerable to ground shaking, such as adobe or other unreinforced structures,” Steven Godby, earthquakes expert at Nottingham Trent University, said in an e-mailed response to a question yesterday.
In the Bam earthquake of 2003, large numbers of these kinds of structures collapsed, including essential buildings, such as hospitals and fire stations, Godby said. Secondary hazards such as landslides may also add to the economic losses by affecting critical infrastructure and making access to remote areas difficult, he added.
Iranian state television reported the Bushehr plant, which is about 1,140 kilometers from the epicenter of yesterday’s quake, is functioning normally.
In Pakistan, at least 21 people were killed, 150 injured and 100 buildings destroyed in southwestern Baluchistan, state-run PTV reported yesterday. “Hundreds of two-room mud houses in the province have collapsed,” said Farooq Kubdani, coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Mashkel, a town of about 70,000.
“Several people are still missing and we suspect they are buried under the debris of the houses,” Kubdani added. “Also the main bazaar of the town Mashkel has completely collapsed.”
In Karachi, Pakistan’s financial center, residents ran into the streets, and buildings also shook in northern India.
On the other side of the Persian Gulf, buildings were evacuated in Dubai and other cities where the quake was felt.
Iranian state television said 2,000 emergency tents had been sent to Saravan. Turkey’s Red Crescent said it was sending aid for Iran, including tents, blankets and food.