Tehran: Rescue teams in north-west Iran were striving on Sunday to dig survivors out of the rubble of twin strong earthquakes that levelled villages and killed at least 180 people and injured 1,300 others, according to an official toll.
The scale of disaster was still emerging as rescue operations in the devastated zone northeast of the city of Tabriz pushed through the night after Saturday's quakes.
With telephone communications interrupted by the quakes, emergency teams were relying on radios and travelling in person to hard-hit villages to assess and rescue. The quakes, which struck on Saturday within 11 minutes of each other, measured 6.2 and 6.0 on the moment magnitude scale, according to Tehran University's Seismological Centre.
The US Geological Survey, which monitors seismic activity worldwide, ranked them as more powerful than that, at 6.4 and 6.3, respectively. "Unfortunately, the toll is mounting and we are now at 180 dead and some 1,300 injured," Khalil Saie, the head of the regional natural disasters centre, told state television .
"Up to now, there are no deaths reported in the cities and all the victims come from rural areas," he said. Earlier he told the television: "We are asking people to not panic. Help is arriving and rescuers are already at the scene."
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office posted a statement on its website expressing condolences to those in the disaster zone and calling on authorities to "mobilise all efforts to help the affected populations."
According to the local Red Crescent, cited by the official news agency IRNA, at least 210 people had already been rescued and taken to hospital.


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