A 5.9-magnitude earthquake has hit the northwestern Iranian province of West Azarbaijan, killing at least three people and injuring hundreds.
The tremor struck an area some six kilometers northwest of the city of Khoy at 21:44 p.m. local time (1814 GMT), on Saturday at a depth of seven kilometers, according to the Seismological Center of the Institute of Geophysics of Tehran University.
Local media reports said the quake was felt in many cities and regions across West Azarbaijan province, including the provincial capital of Tabriz and the city of Orumiyeh as well as the neighboring province of East Azarbaijan.
Mohammad Sadeq Motamedian, West Azerbaijan’s governor, said during a visit to the earthquake-affected areas of Khoy on Sunday morning that initial reports indicated that at least three people had lost their lives and 816 others sustained injuries.
“According to estimates, more than 70 villages have been damaged in the earthquake,” Motamedian said, adding that a 20 to 50-percent damage has been inflicted on residential houses in Khoy.
West Azerbaijan’s governor said the post-earthquake restoration process for electric power systems in 30 villages has begun and relief and rescue operations were underway in the quake-stricken areas.
Hamid Mahbubi, head of the Red Crescent Department in West Azarbaijan, said 500 relief and rescue teams had been dispatched to Khoy since late Saturday.
Earlier in the month, a 5.4-magnitude earthquake also struck Khoy and damaged some 500 houses in the area.
Iran sits astride the boundaries of several major tectonic plates and experiences frequent seismic activity.
Iran's deadliest recorded quake was a 7.4-magnitude tremor in 1990 that killed 40,000 people in the country's north, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless.
In 2003, more than 26,000 people lost their lives following a major quake that ruined the ancient city of Bam in eastern Iran.
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