DUBAI: Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Iran on Saturday and up to 180 people were reportedly killed, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Deputy Interior Minister Hassan Ghadami.
At the same time, the news agency quoted the head of the regional natural disasters centre, Khalil Saie, saying at least 180 had died and 1,350 were injured.
The differing death counts underlined the developing nature of the disaster in the quake zone, northeast of the city of Tabriz, as emergency workers recovered bodies and rescued survivors.
The tallies were nearly double that given just a couple of hours earlier by Saie, who had spoken of 87 dead and 600 hurt.
The US Geological Survey measured the first quake at 6.4 magnitude and said it struck 60 km (37 miles) northeast of the city of Tabriz at a depth of 9.9 km (6.2 miles) at 12.34 GMT.
It said a second earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck 49 km (30 miles) northeast of Tabriz 11 minutes later at a similar depth. Three more lesser aftershocks have followed since then.
The second quake struck near the town of Varzgan, Fars news agency said. "The quake was so intense that people poured into the streets through fear," it said.
Other reports said the earthquake had broken telephone communications, making rescue efforts more problematic.
Iran is straddled by several major fault lines and has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent times, the last which struck the city of Bam in 2003, killing more than 25,000 people.
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