Deadly earthquake strikes northwestern Iran

Kurdpa: Two powerful earthquakes have hit Iran just minutes apart, killing at least 40 people and injuring hundreds. Rescue efforts have been hampered with downed telecommunications.

Two strong earthquakes struck the northwest of Iran on Saturday killing at least 40 people and injuring 400 across dozens of villages, the head of the country\'s emergency services told Iranian news agency ISNA.

\"According to the latest reports, about 40 to 50 people have been killed in the quakes today…About 400 have also been injured and were transported to Tabriz and Ardebil,\" Gholamrezza Masoumi said.

The relatively strong quake also reached the Kurdish city of Orumieh and its suburbs, damaging building, Kurdpa reporters have confirmed.

Officials said panicked residents fled into the streets as the powerful 6.2-magnitude quake hit at 4.53 p.m. local time. A second tremor, measuring 6.3 on the scale was reported 11 minutes later according to measurements taken by the US Geological Survey.

The quake, which hit near the city of Tabriz, home to 1.5 million people, managed to escape relatively unscathed except for a few obvious cracks in buildings, said officials at Tehran University\'s Seismological Center.

The epicenter was 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Tabriz, close to the town of Ahar.

Regional Govenor Ahmad Alireza Beigi told state media \"nearby villages were a source of concern,\" as the earthquake broke telephone communications, making the rescue effort problematic.

Iran straddles several major fault lines and has suffered several quakes in recent times, the last struck the city of Bam in 2003 when more than 25,000 lost their lives.

Earlier in May, another relatively strong earthquake jolted a small Kurdish town in western Iran near the Iraqi border on Thursday, injuring eight people and damaging buildings.

with reports from the agencies