TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian relief workers saved more than 200 people from the rubble of dozens of villages destroyed when two powerful earthquakes struck Saturday in a wide area north of the city of Tabriz, an Iranian official said on Sunday.
The official, Hassan Ghadami, Iran's deputy interior minister, said that "all those under debris have been rescued and those affected are now being provided with their basic needs," the semiofficial Fars news agency reported. The head of Iran's Relief and Emergency Organization said that rescue operations were continuing.
Reza Sedighi, a relief official in the area, told Fars that at least 300 people were killed Saturday, and other officials reported more than 4,500 injured, some severely. Doctors on the scene predicted that more people would be found under destroyed houses, mosques and farms. In total, 133 villages were damaged. Shortages of water and food are being reported throughout the quake zone, a mountainous region near the border with Azerbaijan.
The quakes struck in quick succession, with the more powerful one measuring a magnitude of 6.4, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. Iranian news media said that the epicenters were near four smaller cities north of Tabriz: Ahar, Heris, Mehraban and Varzaqan.