More than 300 killed, 3,000 injured in Iran earthquakes

Story highlights

Scores of villages are damaged or destroyed after two earthquakes

Iranian media: Rescue operations have ended after the Saturday quakes

Historic sites are also damaged

Iran sits on major fault lines and is prone to devastating earthquakes

Tehran, Iran CNN  — 

The death toll from a pair of earthquakes that jolted Iran on Saturday has escalated once again, state-run media reported Monday.

At least 306 people have been killed and 3,037 injured in the two quakes in northwest Iran, Press TV reported, citing the country’s Health Ministry.

The head of emergency services, Gholamreza Masoumi, told the semi-official Fars News Agency that 4,500 people were injured. About 1,200 were taken to hospitals, and the remaining 3,300 were treated as outpatients and released, he said.

Rescue operations have ended in Iran after two strong earthquakes that killed at least 250 people, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Sunday.

“All those killed or injured in the incident have been taken out of the rubble,” said Abolhassan Faqih, the head of Iran’s Red Crescent Society, according to Fars.

Scores of villages were destroyed or damaged by the quakes.

Khalil Saei, the provincial director of crisis management, told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency that the cities of Ahar and Varzaqan were the hardest hit.

The first earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.4, hit Saturday at 4:53 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which said the epicenter was 23 kilometers (14 miles) southwest of Ahar. The agency measured 11 aftershocks.

Eleven minutes later, a second quake struck. This one measured 6.3 and had an epicenter 32 kilometers (20 miles) west-southwest of Ahar. At a depth of less than 10 kilometers (6 miles), both quakes were shallow. The shaking that follows an earthquake is worse in shallow quakes.

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A series of aftershocks followed, including one measuring 4.4 magnitude, according to the USGS.

Authorities had asked residents to spend the night outdoors as a safety precaution.

The Red Crescent’s Faqih said 230 villages in the Varzaqan, Haris and Ahar regions suffered 70% to 100% damage.

“All those under debris have been rescued and the quake-stricken people are now being provided with their basic needs,” said Qaddami.

He said that Russia, Turkey and Taiwan had offered help with relief and rescue operations, but that none was needed.

Thousands of tents were set up throughout the stricken region, and tens of thousands of cans of food were distributed, Iranian officials said.

In a statement, Catherine Ashton, the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy and vice president of the European Commission, said she was “saddened by the tragic news” of the incident.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States is prepared to offer earthquake assistance but had received no request.

“Americans wishing to provide humanitarian assistance to Iranians during this time may donate food and medicine without obtaining an Iranian transactions regulations license,” she told reporters. “Additionally, certain noncommercial personal financial transactions for Iran are authorized under existing general licenses.”

The quakes damaged historic monuments, including the roof of Shahabeddin Ahari’s tomb and the Qasem Khan Ahari house, among other sites, Press TV said.

Iran sits on major fault lines – the collision of the Arabia and Eurasia plates – and has been prone to devastating earthquakes.

Nine years ago, 30,000 people died in an earthquake in Bam in southeastern Kerman province. In 1990, about 50,000 were killed in a quake near the Caspian Sea.

CNN’s Shirzad Bozorgmehr and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.