Two strong earthquakes measuring 6.4 and 6.3 on the Richter scale jolted Iran on Saturday, killing at least 180 people and injuring more than 1350, according Iranian officials.
The first tremor with a 6.4 magnitude struck at 12:23:17 GMT on Saturday with the epicenter located about 23km (14 miles) South West of Ahar, Iran, and the second tremor measuring 6.3 struck at 11 12:34:35 GMT with the epicenter located at 32km (20 miles) East of Tabriz, Iran, according to United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The strong tremors hit Iran cities like Ahar, Tabriz, Hashtrud, Marand and Yerevan (Armenia). Over 15 aftershocks followed after the quakes, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.
Director-General of the Crisis-Management Headquarters of Iran's Northwestern East Azarbaijan province Khalil Sa'ee announced that 180 people have been killed and over 1350 more have been wounded by the quakes, reported Fars News Agency (FNA).
According to Iran's Deputy Interior Minister Hassan Qaddami, the death toll included 45 people in the city of Ahar, 40 in the city of Varzaqan and 50 in the town of Haris, while 18 others have lost their lives at hospital, the semi-official news agency added.
"So far 73 bodies from Varzaghan and Ahar have been handed over to the coroner's office," Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Bahram Samadirad, a provincial official from the office, as saying.
"Since some people are in a critical condition and rescue workers are still trying to rescue people from under the rubble, unfortunately it is possible for the number of casualties to rise," he added.
It is reported that over 60 villages have been destroyed by the tremors and rescue workers have reportedly not able to reach many villages yet. People have been asked to stay outdoors fearing aftershocks.
"The M 6.4 and M 6.3 earthquakes in northwestern Iran occurred as a result of oblique strike-slip faulting in the shallow crust of the Eurasia plate, approximately 300 km east of the plate boundary between the Eurasia and Arabia plates. The two earthquakes are separated by just 10 km in an east-west direction," reported USGS.
Iran has been struck by several earthquakes in the recent years. A 6.6 magnitude quake that struck the country in December 2003 killing about 31,000 people. The earthquake in June 1990 killed more than 35,000 people and injured more than 100,000.
(With Inputs from Reuters)