Two powerful earthquakes killed 220 people and injured around 1,500 in northwest Iran today. Rescue workers frantically combed the rubble of dozens of villages throughout the night and into Sunday as medical staff desperately tried to save lives.
Casualty figures are expected to rise, Iranian officials said, as some of the injured were in critical condition while others were still trapped under the rubble in inaccessible places and rescue efforts were hampered by the darkness.
Six villages were destroyed and about 60 sustained more than 50 percent damage, Iranian media reported.
Photographs posted on Iranian news websites showed numerous bodies, including children, lying on the floor of a white-tiled morgue in the town of Ahar and medical staff treating the injured in the open air as dusk fell.
The U.S. Geological Survey measured Saturday’s first quake at 6.4 magnitude and said it struck 60 km (37 miles) northeast of the city of Tabriz at a depth of 9.9 km (6.2 miles). A second quake measuring 6.3 struck 49 km (30 miles) northeast of Tabriz 11 minutes later at a similar depth.
The second quake struck near the town of Varzaghan. “The quake was so intense that people poured into the streets through fear,” said the news agency Fars.