Quake in Iran's nuclear city kills 37
An earthquake in Iran’s nuclear city of Bushehr has claimed 37 lives and injured 850.
DUBAI - A powerful earthquake struck close to Iran's only nuclear power station on Tuesday, killing 37 people and injuring 850 as it destroyed homes and devastated two small villages, Iranian media reported.
The 6.3 magnitude quake totally destroyed one village, a Red Crescent official told the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA), but the nearby Bushehr nuclear plant was undamaged, according to Iranian officials and the Russian company that built it.
"Due to the intensity of this earthquake, this tragedy has deepened and we have seen the destruction of many homes in the region, the deaths of 37 people and more than 850 injured," the governor of Bushehr province, Fereydoun Hassanvand, told Mehr news agency.
Many houses in rural parts of the province are made of mud bricks, which have been known to crumble easily in quake-prone Iran. Some 700 homes were destroyed, Hassanvand said.
Across the Gulf, offices in Qatar and Bahrain were evacuated after the quake, whose epicentre was 89 km southeast of the port of Bushehr, according to the US Geological Survey. The early afternoon shock was also felt in financial hub Dubai.
The Russian company that built the nuclear power station, 18 km south of Bushehr, said the plant was unaffected.
"Personnel continue to work in the normal regime and radiation levels are fully within the norm," Russian state news agency RIA quoted an official at Atomstroyexport as saying.
Iran informed the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency that there was "no damage to the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant and no radioactive release from the installation", an agency statement said.
One Bushehr resident said the quake shook her home and the homes of her neighbours but they were not damaged.
"We could clearly feel the earthquake," Nikoo, who asked to be identified only by her first name, said. "The windows and chandeliers all shook."
While initial fears about nuclear fallout receded, nearer the epicentre the rescue efforts ramped up into the night in search of survivors and to feed and house hundreds of residents who were traumatised by at least 16 aftershocks.
A Red Crescent official told ISNA that 20 people had been saved by rescue teams searching through the rubble.
Reports in Iranian media spoke of landslides destroying buildings and crowds gathering in the town of Dashti from outlying areas in search of help. Military officials said army and police units had been deployed to maintain order.
Water and electricity lines were severed and communities stayed in the streets because of the threat from aftershocks.
Iran's most powerful authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, offered his condolences to the victims and urged authorities to extend all efforts to save lives and help the afflicted.
Tuesday's quake was much smaller than the 9.0 magnitude one that hit Japan two years ago, triggering a tsunami that destroyed back-up generators and disabled the Fukushima nuclear plant's cooling system. Three of the reactors melted down.
Iran is the only country operating a nuclear power plant that does not belong to the Convention on Nuclear Safety, negotiated after the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl which contaminated wide areas and made 160,000 Ukrainians homeless.
Western officials and the United Nations have urged Iran to join the safety forum.