Earthquake hits Iran; hundreds reported missing

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At least one person has been killed and dozens injured after an earthquake hit central Iran, with dozens more reported missing.

Emergency services responded to reports that as many as 150 people had been killed by the quake, which struck the province of Kermanshah on Saturday night and registered a preliminary magnitude of 6.2.

The US Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.6.

Dozens have also been injured in Sarpol-e Zahab, a town in the region close to where the quake struck, which is in a semi-arid and mountainous area, and was also struck by a quake in 2003.

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“At least one person has been killed and more than 40 injured,” said the emergency service spokesman, Behnam Benardipour.

Authorities have begun an operation to rescue the injured, but said initial reports showed that most of those injured had been treated and discharged.

Iran’s state broadcaster said local authorities were also planning to build an airfield in Sarpol-e Zahab in a bid to increase air traffic.

The quake struck at 10.32pm local time (8.32pm GMT) and was followed minutes later by four aftershocks, the USGS said.

There were no immediate reports of damage to residential buildings.

Iran sits astride major fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. More than 30,000 people were killed in the 8.1-magnitude earthquake that struck western Iran in 2003, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The epicentre of Saturday’s earthquake was in Kermanshah province, 200 miles (320km) west of the capital, Tehran.

Iranian state television showed pictures of residents taking shelter under clean sheets in an open space in the capital, Tehran, as security forces distributed blankets. The images showed locals browsing Facebook, working and talking on mobile phones as the magnitude of the quake grew.

Shouts of “Allahu Akbar” were heard as emergency services began their work.

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