November 27, 2005

Earthquake kills 10 and wounds 50 in Iran

By Alireza Ronaghi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Ten people were killed and 50 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. GMT).

Tahereh Irankhah, a volunteer with the Red Crescent in
Qeshm, said the main hospital on the island was struggling to
keep up with the number of patients.

"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.

"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.

State television quoted the disaster center in the province
of Hormuzgan, which administrates Qeshm, saying 10 people were
killed. Regional Governor Heidar Alishvandi said 50 were

Mohsen Kazemi from Iran's Red Crescent relief agency told
Reuters the four hardest hit villages were Tonban, Gavarzin,
Khaledin and Gourian.

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.

There is a large refinery at Bandar Abbas, but state
television quoted Iran's OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour
Ardebili, as saying the country's oil output and production
facilities had not been affected by the quake.

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 felt in the neighboring United
Arab Emirates.

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.

(additional reporting by Parinoosh Arami in Tehran, Heba
Kandil in Dubai and Patricia Zengerle in Washington)