Published on Apr 16, 2013
A powerful earthquake that struck southeastern Iran was felt in several countries in Asia on Tuesday, rocking buildings in the Indian capital of New Delhi, sending panicked residents of Karachi, Pakistan, fleeing into the streets and causing tremors through Persian Gulf states. Iranian officials said they expected many deaths.
The earthquake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and its epicenter was near Khash, Iran, not far from Iran's border with Pakistan, the United States Geological Survey said.
An Iranian official told state television that he expected hundreds of deaths because of the severity of the earthquake.
The worst-hit area, along Iran's southeastern border, is home to nearly 2 million people, who live in three main cities, Zahaedan, the provincial center, and the epicenter of the earthquake between the cities of Saravan and Khash, where roughly 400,000 people live, the semiofficial Tabnak Web site reported.
The semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Iran's seismology center as saying the earthquake was the worst in 40 years.
The United States Geological Survey reported that the earthquake had a depth of 9.7 miles. Such deep earthquakes are rare and have greater destructive capability.
Iran has often been the epicenter of powerful earthquakes, some of which have taken tens of thousands of lives. In 2003, an 6.6 earthquake near the city of Bam killed at least 26,000 people, and in 1990 at least 30,000 people died in a quake along the Caspian Sea. Last week, a 6.1 quake hit in Bushehr Province, home to Iran's main nuclear reactor, killing more than 30 people.
Unlike the earthquake in Bam, the epicenter of Tuesday's earthquake was not directly under a densely populated area.
"The quake was felt in Sistan-Baluchistan Province in the cities of Zabol, Konarak and Khash," said Mahmoud Mozaffar, the head of the Relief Office of the Iranian Red Crescent, according to local media.
"The quake was felt in seven villages, including Gasht, Kouh Sefid, Pashtouk and Tizab. Due to the low population density of these regions, we hope that the casualties are not too much," he said.
In the largest city close to the epicenter, Saravan, a state of emergency was declared, other officials said.
Sistan-Baluchistan Province is among the poorest of Iran. Most residents are Sunni Muslims and many are from the Baluchi tribe which originates in Iran and Pakistan. The area is known for its drug trade and is regularly the scene of bombings carried out by separatists groups.
In Karachi, the southern port city in Pakistan, local television broadcast images of people standing out on the streets after fleeing high-rise buildings. Tremors were felt most strongly in southern and central parts of Pakistan.
"It seems as if the buildings will fall any minute," an unidentified man in Karachi told GEO News, a private television news network.
The only report of fatalities, however, came from the adjoining province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran, where the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported five deaths. Tahir Hussain, a lawyer with the human rights group, said five people had been killed in the remote town of Panjgur, 50 miles from the border with Iran.
"A wall collapsed and five people lost their lives, including three children and a woman," he said, speaking by phone from Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.
In New Delhi, which is periodically shaken by temblors, the distant quake could be felt through the city, as buildings shook for more than 10 seconds and, in some areas, frightened people ran into the streets. No injuries were reported, nor were there any early reports of property damage in the Indian capital.
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