Five die, 120 injured when shallow quake struck near town of Hastrud, 500km north-west of Tehran just before 2.30am on Friday
A magnitude 5.9 earthquake has hit near Hastrud in north-west Iran. Photograph: USGS/HANDOUT/EPA
A shallow, 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck north-western Iran early on Friday, the United States Geological Survey has said, killing five people and injuring 120.
The quake struck around 60km (35 miles) from the town of Hastrud, in East Azerbaijan Province, shortly before 2.30am (2300 GMT).
It was 8km (5 miles) deep and described as “moderate” by Iran’s Seismological Centre. There were five aftershocks.
Provincial governor, Mohammad-Reza Pourmohammadi, told local media that at least 30 houses had been destroyed.
Rescue operations were underway in 41 rural villages, but the damage was largely concentrated in two areas.
The USGS issued an alert warning that “significant casualties are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread”.
Iran sits where two major tectonic plates meet and sees frequent seismic activity.
The country has suffered a number of major disasters in recent decades, including at the ancient city of Bam, which was decimated by a catastrophic earthquake in 2003 that killed at least 31,000 people.
In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake in northern Iran killed 40,000 people, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless, reducing dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 villages to rubble.
Iran has experienced at least two other significant quakes in recent years – one in 2005 that killed more than 600 people and another in 2012 that left some 300 dead.