40 feared dead in Iran, 20 in Pakistan

Pakistan, specifically Balochistan, appears to have borne the brunt of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Iranian border province of Sistan-Baluchestan on Tuesday afternoon. While Pakistan confirmed the death of at least 20 people following the earthquake, there were conflicting reports from Tehran which ranged from no deaths to 40 dead. However, given the remoteness of the region from both capitals, the last word has not been said on the casualties.

While the tremors were felt as far in North India as Delhi, experts said that mild shocks felt earlier in the day in the north-eastern part of India were unrelated to the Iran quake. The Iranian Seismological Centre was quoted as saying that the epicentre of the quake was situated 95 km north of the city of Saravan. Strong tremors were felt in major parts of the Middle East to the west of Iran. This is said be the most powerful tremor to have struck Iran in four decades; stronger than the Bam earthquake that left thousands dead in 2003.

In Pakistan, 21 people from the Mashkel area of Balochistan were killed and over thrice that number injured. Reports from other nearby districts — Gawadar, Turbat, Panjgur and Washuk — suggested damage to buildings but no casualties were reported. The tremors were felt very strongly in the commercial capital of Karachi where people rushed out of their offices. There was all round panic with people reluctant to return to their offices and homes for fear of after shocks.

Initial reports from Tehran said 40 people were killed in the quake but later the Iranian Students News Agency quoted the head of Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) Mahmoud Mozaffari as stating that there was no report available on the extent of loss.

Iranian state TV denied reports of 40 killed with Mr. Mozaffari pointing out that the epicentre was a thinly populated area but the Director of Radio Tehran, Sajid Rizvi, told Radio Pakistan that 40 deaths had been confirmed.

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