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At least 200 killed, 1,000 injured in Iranian earthquake

March 1, 1997

VILLADAREH, Iran (AP) _ The official death toll from an earthquake in northwestern Iran toll rose to 350 today, but villagers and aid workers rushing to the region said the number of dead was in the thousands.

The Friday quake rocked the towns of Ardabil and Meshkinshahr and about 50 nearby villages, toppling homes and causing other damage, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Rescue teams sped to the area on the edge of the Talish Mountains, 365 miles northwest of the capital, Tehran.

In this poor village at the center of the damage, residents beat their chests in grief as volunteers pulled the bodies of a toddler and three other children from under mounds of rubble.

Fifteen bodies were laid out in the courtyard of the health center and residents said most of the 720 people of the village were believed to have died.

An Intelligence Ministry official, who said he had toured some villages and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the death toll in the region was likely in the thousands.

A teacher in the town of Sarain said he counted 2,000 dead from the surrounding villages taken to the cemetery in Ardabil.

State-run Tehran radio said the 5.5 magnitude quake struck Ardabil province at 4:27 p.m. Friday. The U.S. National Earthquake Information Center put the magnitude at 6.1.

Officials quoted by the radio said that 350 people were killed and 52 villages were damaged _ some of them completely destroyed. Tehran television report put the number of injured at over 1,600.

Meanwhile, some of the injured from a deadly quake in a remote corner of western Pakistan _ 1,200 miles southeast of the Iranian quake site _ began arriving today in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. Stretchers lined hospital corridors and doctors made an appeal for blood donations.

Rescuers said more than 100 people were killed and dozens injured when the magnitude-7.3 quake shook the province early Friday.

The quake was centered near Quetta, about 400 miles southwest of Islamabad, the capital, but the hardest hit region was the remote Sibi district.

Villagers dug with bare hands through mud in search of their neighbors. Most of the dead were buried when their flimsy homes, made of sunbaked mud, collapsed.

Ambulance workers estimate that 75 people died in Harnai, a village in Sibi that is only 30 miles from the quake’s epicenter.

Pakistan’s rescue workers were hampered in reaching the scene by the remoteness of the area and the damage to roads leading into the region.

The main road collapsed and the rail line to Quetta was badly damaged by the earthquake, said Zarar Haider, deputy commissioner of Sibi.

Both Pakistan and Iran suffer numerous quakes each year.

The worst earthquake in the Baluchistan area hit in 1935, killing 30,000 people. The deadliest recent quake in Iran killed about 50,000 in 1990.

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