Powerful 7.8 earthquake hits Iran


A 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Iran on April 16, 2013. This Google Map shows the epicenter in southeast Sistan and Baluchistan province.

A powerful earthquake struck the southeast of Iran on Tuesday, killing scores and sending tremors across the Middle East. 

Iran's state-run Press TV said a 4.4 aftershock rattled Saravan city, which is located in the southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan province. It was not immediately clear if anyone was hurt in the aftershock.

Iranian seismologists said Saravan was the epicenter of the initial magnitude-seven quake, reported Bloomburg

In Iran, there are conflicting reports as to the total number of earthquake-related fatalities, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Press TV initially said at least 40 people were killed, but the LA Times cited Iranian officials as saying later that no one was killed in the quake, which hit near the border with Pakistan.

A Pakistani military official told the Associated Press 34 people were killed and at least 80 people were injured in the quake.

Many, if not all, of the casualties were in the town of Mashkal, the official said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's state-run television said at least six people were killed on its side of the border and another 47 others were injured.

One Iranian official said it was the biggest tremor to hit the country in 40 years, adding, "we are expecting hundreds of dead."

Iran's Seismological Center measured the quake at 7.5 on the Richter scale, though the US Geological Survey put it higher, at 7.8. It struck at a depth of 9.4 miles, according to the USGS.

The seism was powerful enough to be felt in Karachi on Pakistan's east coast, in Dubai and other Gulf cities and even as far away as Delhi in northern India, as Twitter users bore witness:

The area of Iran surrounding the epicenter is mountainous and sparsely populated, though the cities of Saravan, Khash and Zahedan lie nearby.

According to Iran's Fars news agency, most rural houses in the province are made of mud brick and are likely to have suffered severe damage.

All communications in the area are reportedly cut off, making it difficult to assess the full extent of the destruction. A spokesman for the Iranian Red Crescent said five rescue teams had been dispatched to survey the situation.

The tremor comes a week after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Bushehr province in southwest Iran, killing 37 people and injuring 850.

The country sits on major faultlines and has experienced several devastating earthquakes.