November 27, 2005

Five killed in strong Iranian quake

By Alireza Ronaghi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - At least seven people have been killed
and many more injured in an Iranian earthquake that badly
damaged four villages on the Gulf island of Qeshm, officials
and state television said on Sunday.

In addition to the damage done to the villages of Tonban,
Gavarzin and Khaledi, state television said marketplaces in the
island's capital Qeshm City had been shaken to the ground.
Qeshm is a much-loved tourist spot in southern Hormuzgan

Iran's official news agency IRNA said the quake with a
magnitude of 5.9 shook southern Iran, but had no immediate
reports of casualties. The U.S. Geological Survey said it was a
6.1 magnitude quake, and placed it some 58 km (36 miles)
southwest of Bandar Abbas at 10:22 a.m. GMT.

"It is very, very preliminary. At this point we have no
casualties reported, but that is because it so recently
happened," said a U.S. Geological Survey spokeswoman.

State television said the tremor struck at 1:30 p.m. (10:00
a.m. GMT) and was centered close to the Qeshm Island near
Bandar Abbas city. It said three strong aftershocks have
already hit and the main Qeshm hospital is full of wounded

Sunday's temblor is the first killer quake in Iran since
February when 602 people died in a magnitude 6.4 tremor,
centered on the town of Zarand about 700 km (440 miles)
southeast of Tehran.

That quake revived painful memories of the devastating
magnitude 6.8 quake which killed 31,000 people in the desert
citadel city of Bam, 1,000 km (600 miles) southeast of Tehran.

A tremor was felt also in the neighboring United Arab
Emirates, prompting many people to evacuate buildings.

Witnesses in high-rise buildings said they felt the ground
shaking beneath them for about a minute. Many residents
evacuated their buildings and waited on the streets.

Qeshm is the Gulf's biggest island, a free trade zone loved
by tourists and famous for its palm forests and its protected
sea turtles.