Death toll from serial strong earthquakes jolting western Iran late Thursday and early Friday has risen to 66, with the wounded up to nearly 988, according to the official IRNA news agency.
The rescue operations were still going on in the quake-stricken regions of the western province of Lorestan, said Dr. Qodratollah Shams Khorramabadi, chancellor of Lorestan University of Medical Sciences.
The first of the chain quakes, measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale, hit Boroujerd and Doroud, two cities some 300 km southwest of Tehran, at 11:15 PM local time (19:45 GMT) on Thursday, IRNA reported. The epicenter was in the mountainous areas between the two cities located latitudinally about 60 km from each other. Two more aftershocks jolted the region before a third strong tremor measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale at 4:47 AM local time (01:17 GMT) on Friday.
Provincial officials have called for immediate shipment of such items as blankets, tents, heaters and food for the quake-stricken residents, IRNA said.
State television also beamed live pictures of some shocked local residents who had spent the cold night outdoors but were crawling in and out of damaged houses to salvage their belongings. More than 40 villages had been damaged at various degrees during the quakes, the report said, adding that electricity and gas supply in the quake-stricken areas were cut off and local hospitals had been filled with the injured people.
Soon after the quakes, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad instructed the Interior Ministry to rush aid to the quake-stricken civilians, according to IRNA.
"The Iranian nation is deeply moved by the killer quakes…. It is imperative to mobilize all the existing facilities to assist the injured civilians and address their needs immediately," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.
Iran sits on some of the world's most active seismic fault lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes.
The most disastrous earthquake in recent years came on December 26, 2003 when a quake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale hit the historical city Bam in the southeastern province of Kermans, killing nearly 26,200 people.
(Xinhua News Agency April 1, 2006)