As reported by Iranian press TV, at least 180 people have been killed and over 1,400 others injured in two powerful earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks that rocked Iran's northwestern province of East Azarbaijan.
ETN individual research cannot find indication of foreign tourists to be among those injured or killed.
On Saturday, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the city of Ahar, near the provincial capital Tabriz, at 15:53 local time (1123 GMT). The quake struck 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Tabriz at a depth of 9.9 km (6.2 miles).
Another quake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale jolted Varzaqan and Haris, which are located near Ahar, 11 minutes later at a similar depth. The epicenter of the quake was 49 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Tabriz
According to unconfirmed reports, four villages have been completely destroyed by the earthquake and about 60 others have been partially destroyed.
Thousands of people were forced to remain outdoors as at least 20 aftershocks have rocked the area so far.
Initially head of the Rescue and Relief Organization of Iran's Red Crescent Society (IRCS), Mahmoud Mozaffar, said 66 rescuers have been dispatched to the disaster area.
The head of East Azarbaijan's Crisis Management Khalil Saei confirmed the death toll and the number of injured people.
He said rescue operation teams are deployed in the area to help the victims of the quakes.
Deputy Head of Iran's National Disaster Management Organization, Morteza Akbarpour, noted earlier that 11 aftershocks with different magnitudes have hit the northwestern part of the country.
Iran is located on seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes, experiencing at least one small tremor per day on average.
In December 2003, about 27,000 people were killed and 30,000 others injured when a 6.6-magnitude earthquake shook the historic city of Bam in southeastern Iran.
The deadliest earthquake in modern Iranian history was a 7.4-magnitude tremor that occurred on June 21, 1990 and affected Gilan and Zanjan provinces. About 40,000 people were killed, 60,000 others were injured, and around 100,000 adobe houses sustained major damage or collapsed.
Information on East Azerbaijan, Iran:
East Azerbaijan Province or East Azarbaijan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the northwest of the country, bordering Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the provinces of Ardabil, West Azerbaijan, and Zanjan. Its capital is Tabriz.
The province covers an area of approximately 47,830 kmÂČ, it has a population of around four million people. According to the latest divisions of the country in 1996, the counties of this province are Ahar, Ajabshir, Bostan Abad, Bonab, Tabriz, Jolfa, Sarab, Shabestar, Kalebar, Maragha, Marand, Malekan, Miyana, Heris, and Hashtrood. The historical city of Tabriz is the most important city of this province, culturally, politically, and commercially. The province has common borders with the current Republics of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nakhchivan. A fine network of roads and railways connect East Azerbaijan to other parts of Iran and also to neighboring countries.
The highest peak of East Azerbaijan is Sahand Mountain at 3,722 m of elevation, lying south of Tabriz, whereas the lower lying areas are around Garmadooz (Ahar). The heights of the province may be classified into three sectors, namely: the Qara Daq Mountains, the Sahand and Bozqoosh Mountains, and the Qaflan Kooh Mountains.
Generally speaking, East Azerbaijan enjoys a cool, dry climate, being in the main a mountainous region. But the gentle breezes off the Caspian Sea have some influence on the climate of the low-lying areas. Temperatures run up to 8.9 Â°C in Tabriz, and 20 Â°C in Maraqeh, in the winter dropping to -10-15 Â°C at least (depending on how cold the overall year is). The ideal seasons to visit this province are in the spring and summer months.
East Azerbaijan is one of the most archaic territories in Iran. During the reign of Alexander of Macedon in Iran (331 BCE), a warrior known as Attorpat led a revolt in this area, then a territory of the Medes, and thereafter it was called Attorpatkan. Since then this vicinity has been known as Azarabadegan, Azarbadgan and Azarbayjan.
Islamic researchers proclaim that the birth of the prophet Zoroaster was in this area, in the vicinity of Lake Orumieh (Chichesht), Konzak City. Needless to say, this province was subject to numerous political and economical upheavals, attracting the interest of foreigners. The Russians in particular have tried to exert a lasting influence in the region over the past 300 years, occupying the area on numerous occasions. The constitutionalist movement of Iran began here in the late 19th century.
Ethnic tensions in Azerbaijan can visibly trace their origins back to the colonialist policies of the Soviet Union and Imperial Russia. In a cable sent on July 6, 1945 by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the local Soviet commander in Russian (northern) held Azerbaijan was instructed as such:
Begin preparatory work to form a national autonomous Azerbaijan district with broad powers within the Iranian state and simultaneously develop separatist movements in the provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran, Gorgan, and Khorasan".
The most outstanding features from a cultural point of view are the language, Azari/Azerice, and folklore of this region. According to Dehkhoda Dictionary, the language of Azerbaijan is originally "a branch of the Iranian languages known as Azari" (see Ancient Azari language).However the modern Azeri language is a Turkic language very closely related to the language of West Azerbaijan and Turkey. Apart from this, the province also boasts numerous learned scholars, gnostics, several national poets such as Mowlana Baba Mazeed, Khajeh Abdol Raheem Aj Abadi, Sheikh Hassan Bolqari, and Abdolqader Nakhjavani, to name a few, and the contemporary poet Ostad Mohammad Hossein Shahriyar. The current leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, also originally comes from this region.
Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization has registered 936 sites of historical significance in the province. Some are contemporary, and some are from the antiquity of ancient Persia. "Zahak Citadel", for example, is the name of an ancient ruin in East Azerbaijan, which according to various experts, was inhabited from the second millennium BC until the Timurid era. First excavated in the 1800s by British archeologists, Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization has been studying the structure in 6 phases.
East Azerbaijan hails from a rich compendium of Azeri traditions. Many local dances and folk songs continue to survive among the various peoples of the province. As a longstanding province of Iran, Azerbaijan is mentioned favorably on many occasions in Persian literature by Iran's greatest authors and poets.East Azerbaijan today
East Azerbaijan province is an industrial centre of Iran. East Azerbaijan province has over 5000 manufacturing units, of which at least 800 are industrial (6% percent of national total). The value of product from these units in 1997 totalled US$374 million (373 billion rials = 4.07% of the national total). Total investments were valued at US$2.7 billion (2.4513 trillion rials) in 1997.
Some of the major industries include Azerr glass industries, Maraqeh paper manufacturing, Ahar Sungun copper and nepheline syenite, the Tabriz Oil Refinery and Petrochemical Complex, Tabriz Tractor Manufacturing Co., Azerbaijan steel, foundry and auto-part manufacturing, food industries, leather and shoe industries, and the Tabriz Machine Manufacturing Co.
Tabriz also has an excellent position in the handicraft industry of Iran, having a large share in the exports of the province. Tabriz carpets are widely known around the world and in international markets for their vibrant designs and colors. Without exaggeration, Iranian rugs owe their fame to the creative minds of the designers and the deft hands of the carpet weavers of East Azerbaijan.
At present there are about 66,000 carpet production units in the province, employing some 200,000 people. The annual production of these carpets is roughly 792,000 mÂČ, which comprises more than 70% of Iran's carpet exports. 35% of all Iranian carpets are produced in East Azerbaijan.
East Azerbaijan province is also one of the richest regions of Iran in natural minerals, with 180 mines in 1997, of which 121 units are currently in operation, and the rest are being planned.
UNESCO has two Biosphere reserves in East Azerbaijan province. One in Lake Urmia and the other at Arasbaran.
Source: Press TV, eTN Iran