Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Iran Saturday, killing 87 people, injuring hundreds and scaring thousands into fleeing their homes as aftershocks continued to hit the area, state media said.
The U.S. Geological Survey measured Saturday's first quake at 6.4 magnitude and said it struck 60 km (37 miles) northeast of the city of Tabriz at a depth of 9.9 km (6.2 miles). A second quake measuring 6.3 struck 49 km (30 miles) northeast of Tabriz 11 minutes later at a similar depth.
There have been at least 18 aftershocks since then,said Iranian media, as reported by Reuters.
The second quake struck near the town of Varzaghan. "The quake was so intense that people poured into the streets through fear," Fars news agency said of the town.
The head of the crisis center in East Azerbaijan province said 87 people had been killed, Fars said. Some 600 had been injured, the agency added.
A local official in the area told Iranian Students' News Agency that six villages had been completely destroyed and 60 villages had been 50 to 70 percent destroyed, NBC reported.
Some 210 people in Varzaghan and Ahar have been rescued from under the rubble of collapsed buildings, the official Islamic Republic News Agency news agency said, quoting a local official.
Iran is crossed by several major fault lines and has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years, including a 6.6. magnitude quake in 2003 which turned the southeastern historic city of Bam into dust and killed more than 25,000 people.