Pakistan bears brunt of Iran earthquake, at least 35 killed

 A powerful earthquake struck a border area of southeast Iran on Tuesday killing at least 35 people in neighbouring Pakistan, destroying hundreds of houses and shaking buildings as far away as India and Gulf Arab states.

Communications with the sparsely-populated desert and mountain region were largely cut off, making it difficult to assess Iranian casualties. But an Iranian provincial governor later said there were no reports of deaths there so far.
 
"Our staff were in a meeting and we felt the ground shake," Saleh Mangi, Programme Unit Manager for Plan International in the Pakistani town of Thatta, was quoted as saying by the British office of the children's charity.
 
"It was horrible - we felt the movement in the chairs and even the cupboards were shaking. This is the strongest quake I have felt since the 1980s."
 
Pakistani officials said at least 30 people were killed and 150 injured in the town of Mashkeel in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran.
 
Mohammed Ashraf, head of a health centre in Mashkeel, said several hundred houses in the town had caved in. Three women and two children were also killed when their mud house collapsed in the Baluchistan district of Panjgur.
 
"The earthquake has killed at least five people in Panjgur," said Ali Imran, an official at the government disaster-response unit in Quetta, Baluchistan's main city. 
 
Pakistan's army said it had deployed troops and helicopters to ferry tents, medicines and medical teams to Mashkeel.
  
SECOND IN A WEEK

It was the second big quake to hit Iran in a week. On April 9, a powerful 6.3 magnitude quake struck close to Iran's only nuclear power station, killing 37 people, injuring 850 and devastating two villages.

Most of Iran's nuclear-related facilities are located in central Iran or its west, including the Bushehr nuclear power plant on the Gulf coast.

"It is far from Bushehr and other nuclear-related facilities," Iran expert Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group think-tank told Reuters.

"However, the recent tremors are ominous reminders of how earthquake prone Iran's terrain truly is and how critical it is for the Iranian government to be prepared for a nuclear emergency," Vaez said.

Iran sits on major geological faultlines and has suffered several devastating earthquakes, including a 6.6 magnitude quake in 2003 that flattened the city of Bam, in Iran's far southeast, killing more than 25,000 people.

This quake also shook tall buildings in India's capital New Delhi, sending people running into the streets. People also evacuated buildings in Qatar and Dubai.

"I was working and my work station was shaking," said Viidhu Sekhri, 35, an underwriter at a New Delhi insurance company. "Then it was a bit shaky so we just rushed outside."  

Earlier in the day two smaller tremors were felt in India's Himalayan region close to the Chinese border. An official at India's disaster management authority said the tremors were also felt across northern India.

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