The quakes, with magnitudes of up to six, centred on remote villages between the industrial towns of Doroud and Boroujerd in the province of Lorestan. Eyewitnesses in Doroud said the quakes, which happened in the middle of the night, caused panic among residents. Doroud's governor told Irna news agency that buildings in rural areas had been damaged and power lines cut.
Iran straddles a major geological fault line and is regularly struck by powerful earthquakes. Some 40,000 people died when the ancient city of Bam was levelled by an earthquake in December 2003. As many as 40 villages were thought to have been damaged by the latest quakes, some severely, local TV reported. Most of the injured were in bed when the first tremor hit at 0105 (Thursday 2135 GMT), Irna said. One local official, Ali Barani, said many of the worst hit villages had been completely flattened. Those who did manage to escape sought refuge outside.
"We are afraid to get back home. I spent the night with my family and guests in open space last night," Doroud resident Mahmoud Chaharmiri told the Associated Press news agency by telephone. Experts say the earthquake is moderate in scale, however in the past such tremors have killed thousands in rural areas of Iran, where houses are built with brick and often poorly constructed. In February 2005, more than 600 people died in a 6.4 magnitude quake centred in a remote area near Zarand in Iran's Kerman province. Another powerful quake hit Kerman in southern Iran in November 2004, killing 400.
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