The twin quakes on 11.08.2012, measuring 6.4 and 6.3 on the moment magnitude scale, flattened hundreds of hamlets in Iran’s mountainous northwest, near the city of Tabriz.
As of 12.08.2012, the earthquake death toll is about 306. Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi told a session of parliament that the number jumped by about 50 after victims expired in the hospital. More than 3,000 people were injured in the twin earthquakes that struck two days ago, she added in comments broadcast on state radio.
In one hamlet visited by AP Television News near the village of Bajeh Baj, 13 miles west of one of the epicenters, furniture peeked out from under piles of bricks and collapsed roof timbers while men sorted through debris, trying to salvage what little was left of their households.
Residents say the earthquake killed 35 people living in the simple dwellings surrounded by mountains. Dried earth was left split wide open from the force of the shock, which cut some houses in two and left the wall of one standing only where it was propped up by a refrigerator.
The death toll included some 219 women and children, Dastjerdi said, adding that around 2,000 injured people had been released from hospitals soon after the quake since they had only minor injuries.
Dastjerdi said her ministry has deployed scores of ambulances and medics to the region but still needs helicopters to transfer seriously injured people quickly.
Authorities say old, heavy roofs without frames were largely responsible for the death toll in the rural areas.
Scores of aftershocks have coursed through the region since the 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude quakes hit the area, home to some 300,000 people in a 2,300-square-mile (6,000-square-kilometer) borderland near Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The quakes hit the towns of Ahar, Haris and Varzaqan in East Azerbaijan province. At least 12 villages were totally leveled, and 425 others sustained damage ranging from 50 to 80 percent, state TV and news agencies reported.
Many roads and other infrastructure were heavily damaged. State TV showed relief workers distributing tents and helping survivors, mainly in rural areas.
Iran is located on seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 2003, some 26,000 people were killed by a 6.6 magnitude quake that flattened the historic southeastern city of Bam.
Iran rejects US aid
Iran has rejected on 15.08.2012, a United States offer of aid for survivors of deadly earthquakes which struck villages in its north-west, saying the offer was not made in “good faith”.
However, the head of the interior ministry’s crisis management organisation, Hassan Ghadami, told local media Iran had declined aid offers.
“Iran did not accept the US offer for sending humanitarian aid for quake survivors,” he said.
“We do not believe the US put forward the offer in good faith. We are currently having a medicine supply crisis because of sanctions.
“Do us a favour and lift the sanctions.”
Iran’s response underlined what it saw as US hypocrisy, given that Washington this year has done all it can to isolate Tehran, by imposing economic sanctions.
Although Iran’s Red Crescent said it had rejected other offers of aid from Germany, Taiwan and Russia, media reports say humanitarian cargoes from a handful of countries, including Qatar, Pakistan, Switzerland and Azerbaijan, have arrived.
The US stressed that Americans had ways of sending assistance to Iran for the quake, despite the sanctions.
The US and Iran have no diplomatic relations and have been involved in a tense diplomatic standoff for decades, most recently over Tehran’s nuclear program.
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