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Two earthquakes in northwest Iran kill at least 180

TEHRAN, Iran — Two strong earthquakes leveled villages and damaged homes in northwest Iran on Saturday, killing at least 180 people and injuring more than 1,350 others, state TV reported. Thousands of people spent the night outdoors as aftershocks rattled the area.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that Saturday's first quake at 4:53 p.m. had a magnitude of 6.4 and struck 37 miles northeast of the city of Tabriz at a depth of 6.2 miles. Its epicenter was about 200 miles northwest of the capital Tehran, according to Khalil Saei, local crisis committee chief, the TV report said.

The second quake, with a magnitude of 6.3, struck 11 minutes later. Its epicenter was 29 miles northeast of Tabriz.

As rescuers searched through the rubble, Gholamreza Masoumi, head of the country's emergency services, told the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency that 400 of the injured had been taken to Tabriz, home to Iran's Azeri Turkish-speaking minority.

Iranian news media reported that the epicenters were near four smaller cities north of Tabriz: Ahar, Heris, Mehraban and Varzaqan.

"We just wandered around the city, and everybody is in a panic," said a woman reached at the state telephone company in Ahar, a city of about 85,000. "Thank God we have not seen any dead people, but buildings are damaged."

Officials were urging people to spend the night outside, and television showed images of people sitting in parks and of chandeliers shaking in living rooms.

Telephone lines were mostly cut, and cellphone services were not working in the stricken areas. In Tabriz, traffic lights were working and shops were open, one witness said over the telephone.

Iran lies on several main fault lines, and experts say Tehran could be hit by an earthquake of magnitude 7 or higher.

In 2003, a 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck the southern city of Bam, killing about 25,000 people.

This report contains information from the Associated Press and the New York Times.

Two earthquakes in northwest Iran kill at least 180 08/11/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 11, 2012 7:57pm]
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