The powerful and deadly earthquake in Iran: What we know so far
The border along Iran and Pakistan shook violently in a massive quake. Thankfully, the damage was not as bad as initially reported
A powerful earthquake hit Iran along its border with Pakistan early Tuesday. There have been reports of deaths in both countries, although accounts of the toll have varied widely. The area is sparsely populated, and rescue crews were still trying to reach the hardest hit areas through the day. Here's what has been reported so far:
Iran's fears haven't been confirmed
As rescuers and locals reported back, the human toll, at least, appeared to be lower than feared. Iranian state media initially reported 40 deaths, but hours later said none had been confirmed. Experts gave two main reasons why there wasn't a heavier toll. First, while the Iranian province where it struck — Sistan Baluchistan — is the largest in the country, it's actually sparsely populated. Many of the inhabitants in the villages scattered around the epicenter live in tents, or mud huts. "The epicenter of the quake was located in the desert, and population centers do not surround it," said Morteza Akbarpour, an Iranian crisis center official. "There were no fatalities in the towns around the epicenter." The second reason for the light damage appeared to be that the quake hit deeper underground than first thought. The USGS initially reported the depth at nine miles, and later revised the estimate to 51 miles.
Pakistan may have suffered the worst
Deaths have been confirmed on Pakistan's side of the border, where, according to local leaders, at least five people died in the town of Mashkel. Agence France Presse says a total of 34 people were killed in Pakistan. The earthquake was strong enough to be felt across the region, from New Delhi, India, to Dubai. Michael Stephens, a researcher at RUSI Qatar, told BBC News from his office in Doha: "I definitely felt the walls shaking. It lasted for about 25 seconds." Authorities in Karachi (Pakistan), Delhi, and in Gulf states evacuated office buildings that shook during the event, although no damage was reported in cities far from the epicenter.
Iran's nuclear plant dodged another bullet
Tuesday's quake was the second to strike Iran recently — a 6.3 magnitude quake struck near the Persian Gulf coast last week. That disaster left 37 people dead and it hit just 60 miles from the town of Bushehr, which is home to Iran's nuclear power plant. The event conjured up fears of a nuclear nightmare like the one that occurred when Japan's earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Those fears weren't realized, however, as the reactor was apparently not damaged. But both Iran and Pakistan have many other nuclear facilities, from research labs to uranium mines. "Given the magnitude of the quake... it's not yet clear if [all of] the regime's nuclear facilities escaped the damage," said John Hudson at Foreign Policy.