The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hundreds die in Iran quake

Zarand (Iran), Feb. 22 (Reuters): A powerful earthquake hit a mountainous region of southeast Iran today, killing almost 400 people, injuring hundreds and destroying villages, officials said.

The tremor, with a magnitude of 6.4, was centred on the town of Zarand, about 700 km southeast of Tehran and just 250 km from Bam, devastated by an earthquake that killed 31,000 people just over a year ago. Distraught and weeping villagers carried dead bodies wrapped in bloodied blankets and bedsheets and scrabbled with their bare hands through rubble in search of friends and relatives.

'It's completely devastated, there's almost nothing left of the buildings,' Kari Egge, Unicef representative in Iran, said by telephone from Douhan village, about 20 km from Zarand. Egge said locals estimated at least 200 died in Douhan alone.

'There are 12 other villages which are also affected, one of which is not accessible due to a blocked road. There are still people unaccounted for, that's for sure,' she said.

A man cries after losing his home and family in Dahouyen near Zarand, 700 km southeast of tehran. (Reuters)

Major towns and cities in the area, however, appeared to have escaped heavy damage, officials said. This meant the toll would not be as high as the many thousands killed in some quakes in Iran in the past. 'The toll now stands at 377 dead and more than 1,000 injured,' Ali Komsari, a spokesman for the Kerman provincial governor's office, said.

A Reuters photographer in another village close to Zarand said local residents had already started burying the dead. 'I saw four children, wrapped in blankets, being buried,' he said. 'My whole family is dead,' one man cried in images broadcast on state television. Unicef's Egge said survivors would need to move to nearby towns and villages to find shelter before nighfall.

'It's at 1,800 metres here. It's cold and has been raining. There's no shelter, nowhere for people to stay,' she said, adding the UN children's agency had calculated that around 80,000 people had been affected by the quake.

Television showed groups of villagers huddled together in the rain, striking their heads and chests in grief. Hospitals in Zarand were full to capacity, it added. Some of the injured were ferried by train to nearby Kerman where bandaged and crying children clutching bags of serum stood at the railway station.

The Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross said relief teams from the Iranian Red Crescent were distributing food, tents and blankets. Mostafa Mohaghegh of the federation said in Geneva: 'We were told there is no need for international rescue teams. Everything is under control, this size (earthquake) is manageable,' he added.

Iran is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.

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