Deadly Earthquake Strikes Central Iran

TEHRAN, Iran, February 22, 2005 (ENS) - A strong earthquake shook central Iran at dawn local time, claiming at least 300 lives in and around the city of Zarand in the province of Kernan, the provincial Natural Disaster Headquarters said today. The quake was centered about 965 kilometers (600 miles) southeast of the capital Tehran.

The magnitude 6.4 event injured more than 500 other people, many of whom were still in bed when the shaking began.

It is expected that the toll will rise to more than 500 dead and some 1,000 injured, said Zarand MP Hossein Amiri.

Mohammad-Javad Fadaei, Natural Disaster Headquarters chief, said 15 villages surrounding the town of Ravar, near Zarand, sustained 25 to 45 percent damages.

Four people were also killed in the village of Kerman, 80 kilometers from Zarand, said Fadaei. The neighboring cities of Yazd, Meybod, and Behabad also felt the temblor.

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Map of the Middle East showing the location of today's earthquake with a yellow star. The circles are all past earthquake locations. (Map courtesy USGS)
The region has been rocked by nine aftershocks since the first quake this morning, according to the Iranian Seismological Center, at the University of Tehran's Institute of Geophysics.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake originated some 42 kilometers (26 miles) below the Earth's surface.

Eight relief teams equipped three helicopters have been sent to the affected areas to offer emergency help to survivors of the quake.

The Iranian Red Crescent has begun rescue and relief operations in response to the disaster. The Red Crescent managing director of Kerman branch as well as relief and rescue teams are on the scene. Some mountain rescuers were also dispatched to assist the people in need.

The Iranian Red Crescent is experienced with earthquakes. A devastating quake with a magnitude of 6.7 rocked the historical city of Bam in the same province on December 26, 2003, killing over 30,000 people and injuring thousands more. Eighty-five percent of the buildings in Bam were destroyed, including a 2,000 year old citadel that was a World Heritage Site.

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Iranian women waiting to receive relief goods from Iranian Red Crescent at a distribution center in Bam. (Photo by Farooq Burne courtesy IFRC)
"Twelve months later, signs of the devastation are still evident, not just in the collapsed buildings but in peoplesí minds," says Mohammed Mukhier, head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Iran.

The Bam relief operation is the first one in the history of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement where extensive psychological support has been deployed immediately following a large scale disaster.

Mukhier says it could become a model for future disaster response. "Integrating psychological support into the relief effort right from the beginning of a sudden-onset disaster is a model that could be used more widely," he said.

"Traditional rescue work is important but providing psychological support to the victims as well as to the relief workers afterwards is at least as important," says Bijan Daftari, head of the IRCS Rescue and Relief Organization. Daftari is currently working on strengthening the IRCS disaster response capability.