Seven dead, hundreds injured in Iran quake

The late night quake, with epicentre near the town of Hosseinabad in Kerman province, was followed by 22 tremors, including one of 5.0 magnitude, the Mehr news agency said today quoting the geophysics department of Tehran university.

"So far damages have been concentrated in villages in the areas of Sahraj and seven dead and hundreds of injured have been removed from the debris," Mehr quoted Kerman governor Esmail Najjar as saying.

"Considering the damages the death toll is expected to rise," he said.The quake struck at 10:12 pm last night (0012 IST) and was even felt in the bordering province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

Mohsen Salehi, head of disaster management of Kerman province, told state news agency IRNA late yesterday that the communication lines in the area were down and the quake was followed by mild tremors.

State media reported that the quake affected region was largely mountainous and hence access to it was cut off making it difficult for relief to reach the victims.Hosseinabad lies near the city of Bam, the site of the deadliest earthquake to hit Iran in recent times.

The 6.3-magnitude temblor in December 2003 killed 31,000 people -- about a quarter of Bam's population -- and destroyed the city's ancient mud-built citadel.Iran sits astride several major fault lines in the Earth's crust and is prone to frequent earthquakes, many of which have been devastating.

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