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Iran: Scores Killed In Strong Earthquake

A screen capture from Iranian television shows the aftermath of today's quake 22 February 2005 -- Iranian officials have confirmed the deaths of some 220 people in the southeastern part of the country shaken by an earthquake early today.

Authorities have expressed concern that the death toll could increase by several hundred as many remote villages have not been reached by rescue teams yet. Reports say that the 6.4-magnitude quake also left some 500 injured.

The head of the Relief and Rescue Organization at the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Bijan Daftari, spoke to RFE/RL just a few hours after the quake. He believes there will not be a dramatic increase in the number of casualties.

“The size of the area is not very large, the population residing in this area doesn’t exceed 25,000 people and for sure all of them have not been directly affected [by the quake]. But, in any case, [the number of casualties] could increase a bit but it will not all of a sudden rise to a [very big] number," Daftari said.

The strong quake shook the outskirts of the city of Zarand in Kerman Province at 5:55 local time.

Villages Worst Affected

Iranian officials say there has been no major damage to the big cities in the region. But severe damage has been reported in nearby villages where many houses have been totally destroyed.

Most houses in the villages are built from mud and brick and collapse easily under the force of an earthquake.

The governor of the city of Zarand, Javad Rashidi, has told Iran’s student news agency, ISNA, that six villages in the area have suffered 90 percent damage.

The Red Crescent’s Daftari said rescue and relief workers were dispatched to the area shortly after the quake occurred.

“About 40 rescue teams from Zarand and Kerman were sent to the area, support teams were also dispatched from Red Crescent Societies in Hormozgan, Yazd, Isfahan, Qom, and Zahedan and right now we are busy coordinating to get three airplanes in order to send more aid to the area,” Daftari said.

Accessing some of the remote villages is difficult because of traffic, bad roads, and because of landslides caused by the earthquake.

The powerful quake was also felt in some of the cities in the region. A resident in Kerman told Radio Farda that the quake caused fear among Kerman residents who spent the early morning hours outside their houses.

“Kerman was shaken by the quake to a degree that all people left their houses, fortunately the tremors woke up the people and because of the bitter experience they had with [the city of] Bam everyone went outside and stayed out for quite some time,” Kerman said.

Reportedly there have been more than 15 aftershocks in the area.

About 14 months ago, on 26 December 2003, a powerful earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale rocked the historic city of Bam in the same province hit by today’s quake, killing more than 30,000 people.

Iran is among the most earthquake-prone countries in the world but experts say most of the country’s buildings are not resistant to earthquakes due to the use of poor construction materials and the lack of adherence to building codes.
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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL focusing on Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.