Sunday, November 27, 2005

Quake Destroys Five Iran Villages

Caroline Faraj and Shirzad Bozorgmehr, CNN News:
At least five people were killed and five villages largely destroyed when a strong earthquake struck southern Iran Sunday, officials said. "Five people have been killed and dozens injured," the governor of Qeshm Island off Iran's Persian Gulf coast told state television, Reuters reported.

A landslide that followed the quake caused additional damage, Gov. Heidar Alishvandi said. The five villages were at least 80 percent destroyed.

A series of aftershocks struck the area about 20 minutes later, scaring panicked residents even further, he said.

Alishvandi said rescue efforts were already under way to free people from the rubble.

Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency said the main hospital on Qeshm was full of wounded people.

"The hospital is full of wounded and those accompanying them. The hospital lacks basic facilities," an IRNA bulletin read, Reuters reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake's magnitude at 6.1, while IRNA said it measured 5.9 on the Richter scale. The magnitude scale and Richter scale are slightly different methods of measuring earthquake intensity.

A 6.1-magnitude quake is considered "strong" by the USGS.

Three aftershocks measuring between 4.0 and 4.8 on the Richter scale struck the area, according to the state-run Iranian News Network. The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre measured one aftershock at magnitude 5.3.

The quake was centered 35 miles southwest of the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas, the USGS said. IRNA said the epicenter was about 22 miles from Qeshm Island. READ MORE

Residents in both places rushed out of their homes into the street in panic, IRNA reported. The quake lasted 10 to 15 seconds when it struck at 1:52 p.m. (5:22 a.m. ET).

Qeshm Island has a population of about 120,000 people, primarily in villages with mostly mud-and-brick buildings.

The earthquake was felt as far away as Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 145 miles to the south, where it also caused panic at schools and businesses.

The quake's epicenter was 21.7 miles below the surface of the Earth, the USGS said. Earthquakes with an epicenter closer to the surface generally are more violent and cause more damage.

Bandar Abbas is about 150 miles southwest of Bam, where a 6.6-magnitude earthquake on December 26, 2003, killed at least 26,000 people, injured another 30,000 and destroyed 85 percent of buildings.

On February 22, a magnitude 6.4 quake struck central Iran. About 270 people were killed and 40 villages affected.

Qeshm is the Persian Gulf's biggest island, a free trade zone loved by tourists and famous for its palm forests and its protected sea turtles, Reuters reported. editor Caroline Faraj and journalist Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report
An quake in Tehran would be far more devastating. Estimates are half of the buildings in Tehran will be demolished and deaths there could reach 1.5 million.