November 27, 2005

Earthquake kills at least seven in Iran

By Alireza Ronaghi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - At least seven people were killed and
many more injured when an earthquake razed mud-brick villages
on the Gulf island of Qeshm off Iran's south coast on Sunday,
officials and state media said.

Iran's official news agency IRNA said the quake, with a
magnitude of 5.9, shook southern Iran for about 10 to 15
seconds at 1:53 P.M. (10:23 a.m. British time) and the island's
main hospital was full of injured people.

"The earthquake was really strong and people poured into
the streets in panic. My husband immediately rushed off to one
of the stricken villages," said Sara Sadeqi, 22, a housewife in
Qeshm City, the island's capital.

Mohsen Kazemi from Iran's Red Crescent relief agency told
Reuters all of the seven came from the villages of Tonban,
Gavarzin, Khaledin and Gourian.

Tahereh Irankhah, a volunteer with the Red Crescent in
Qeshm, said the situation at the hospital was desperate.

"The number of people injured is very high, and people are
in the corridors. We need tents and blankets," she said.

State media said there were three strong aftershocks.


Qeshm is the biggest island in the Gulf and is a free-trade
zone in southern Hormuzgan province with a population of about

It is famed for its palm forests and its beaches are much
loved by tourists and nesting sea turtles.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was of 6.1
magnitude, and placed it about 58 km (36 miles) southwest of
the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas.

The tremor was the first fatal quake in Iran since February
when more than 600 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
6.8-magnitude quake in 2003 that killed 31,000 people in the
desert citadel city of Bam, 1,000 km (600 miles) southeast of

Sunday's tremor was also in the neighboring United Arab
Emirates, prompting many people to evacuate buildings.

Witnesses in high-rise buildings said they felt the ground
shake for about a minute. Many residents left their buildings
and waited on the streets.