TEHRAN: Three earthquakes hit eastern Iran in quick succession early on Friday, the first a fairly strong but shallow magnitude-6.0 tremor that struck near the city of Kerman, but appeared not to have caused any deaths.
It was followed by two aftershocks of 5.0 and 5.1 in the same area around 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of Kerman, according to the US Geological Survey.
“The affected region has around 50 villages. The earthquake caused destruction particularly in eight villages, but we have no indication of any deaths for the moment,” Mostafa Mousavi, vice governor of Kerman province, told state television.
Residents of Kerman came out into the streets, and local media reported a rush by motorists to stock up on petrol.
A local official nearer the epicentre told state media that roads had been blocked to several villages and the walls of older buildings had collapsed.
Eight teams from the Iranian Red Crescent were dispatched by helicopter, an official from the organisation said.
The University of Tehran’s seismology centre gave slightly different figures to the US Geological Survey, announcing an initial earthquake of 6.1, followed by aftershocks of 5.1 and 4.
The latest tremors come just over two weeks after a 7.3 quake killed more than 500 people in western Kermanshah province, close to the border with Iraq.
Iran sits on top of where two major tectonic plates meet and sees frequent seismic activity.
Friday’s quake hit around 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of the ancient city of Bam, which was decimated by a catastrophic earthquake in 2003 that killed at least 31,000 people.
In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake in northern Iran killed 40,000 people, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless, reducing dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 villages to rubble.
Iran has experienced at least two other major disasters in recent years – one in 2005 that killed more than 600 people and another in 2012 that left some 300 dead.