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Strong earthquake kills 10 in Iran

Footage from Iranian TV shows a building damaged by the massive earthquake Sunday.


U.S. Geological Survey

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- At least 10 people died, dozens were injured and five villages damaged when a magnitude 5.9 earthquake rattled the southern tip of Iran on Sunday afternoon, officials said.

A landslide followed the quake, according to Heidar Alishvandi, the governor of Qeshm Island where damage was heavy.

The island, with a population of about 120,000 people, consists primarily of villages with a majority of mud-and-brick buildings that may not be quake-resistant.

A series of aftershocks struck the area about 20 minutes later, the governor said.

Intensive search and rescue operations have begun on the island, with helicopters and military personnel deployed, officials told state-run TV.

The quake was reported just before 2 p.m., local time, and officials believe the time of day a quake strikes has an effect on casualty figures. Officials say casualties are normally worse when quakes occur at night and people are in their homes sleeping.

Along with search and rescue efforts, officials said relief was needed urgently in terms of tents, canned food, water and warm clothing. Communication lines -- initially knocked out on the island -- have been restored.

Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said the main hospital on Qeshm was full of wounded people. (Watch pictures of the damage and the injured -- 1:10)

"The number of people injured is very high, and people are in the corridors. We need tents and blankets," Red Crescent volunteer Tahereh Irankhah told Reuters.

The quake was centered 35 miles southwest of Bandar Abbas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey said. The IRNA reported the epicenter was about 22 miles from Qeshm Island.

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), the news agency said.

The earthquake was felt as far away as Dubai in United Arab Emirates, 145 miles to the south, sparking panic in schools and businesses when it was felt during the lunch hour. News reports say it was felt in Oman as well.

Iranian officials told state media the island is in a quake-prone zone, but there has not been a major quake in the area for 20 or 30 years.

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.

The IRNA said the quake was measured at 5.9 on the open-ended Richter scale.


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 said one aftershock measured magnitude 5.3.

The magnitude scale of earthquakes and the Richter scale are two slightly different methods of measuring earthquake intensity.

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

On Feb. 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

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