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Strong quake hits Iran, felt across Gulf and South Asia

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A powerful earthquake rattled Iran on Tuesday, and was felt in the Gulf and South Asia where at least five people died and frightened office workers fled their buildings, AFP reports.

Iran's Seismological Centre said on its website that the 7.5-magnitude quake struck at 3:14 pm (1044 GMT) in the southeast near the Islamic republic's border with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The website of the US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the quake at 7.8, and said it struck near the Iranian city of Khash, in the province of Sistan Baluchistan.

In Pakistan, the quake brought down homes, killing at least five people and injuring others, a hospital official said.

"We have received five dead bodies," Ashraf Baloch told AFP by telephone from Mashkail in Washuk district, around three kilometres (1.8 miles) from the border with Iran.

Seven people were reportedly hurt in Iran, but there was no immediate official confirmation of any deaths in the country.

Iran's official IRNA news agency said crisis management authorities had declared a state of emergency in the quake-hit area.

"The quake is unprecedented in 56 years" for Iran, Mehdi Zare, an official at the Seismological Centre, told state television without elaborating.

The head of Iran's Red Crescent rescue corps, Mahmoud Mozafar, said communications to the stricken areas have been cut by the quake.

The earthquake also shook buildings in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, across the waters of the Gulf in the United Arab Emirates. It was also felt in the Saudi capital Riyadh and in Oman.

In the tourist hub of Dubai, residential and office buildings were evacuated and thousands of people gathered outside skyscrapers.

"Everybody's on the streets. There's a state of panic," said the director of an insurance company in the city centre who identified himself only as Rami.

The grandiose Dubai Mall was completely evacuated, according to employees who said people were evacuated from towers in Downtown Dubai, home to the world's tallest building.

The quake was also strongly felt in Kuwait, particularly in coastal areas, and in the Bahraini capital Manama, where buildings in the central financial district were evacuated.

The earthquake was felt across northern India, including in the capital New Delhi where tremors rattled buildings and led many office workers to run into the street as a precaution.

There were no immediate reports of any damage or casualties in India, but concern remains high just 10 days after a building collapse in Mumbai killed 72 people.

"We felt the jerks," said S.C. Basu, a retired government engineer who lives in the east of the Indian capital. "Our beds shook and crockery rattled. Many people left for outside."

The deputy head of Iran's state crisis management organisation, Morteza Akbarpour, told Fars news agency casualties should be low considering the rural setting of the stricken area.

The quake comes a week after a strong earthquake struck near Iran's Gulf port city of Bushehr, killing at least 30 people and injuring 800 but leaving Iran's only nuclear power plant intact.


April 16 2013, 18:05

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