Two dead, 255 injured in Iran earthquake

Map of Iran locating the epicentre of an earthquake that measured 6.0 in the west of the country on Sunday (AFP Photo/AFP) (AFP)

Tehran (AFP) - A strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck western Iran near the border with Iraq early Sunday, killing two people and injuring more than 250, officials said.

The shallow quake hit 26 kilometres (16 miles) southwest of the city of Javanrud in Kermanshah province, the US Geological Survey said, near the site of a powerful quake last year that killed hundreds.

Kermanshah governor Houshang Bazvand told state broadcaster IRIB that two people were killed and 255 injured.

The head of the emergency department at Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, Saeb Sharidari, said the two dead were a pregnant woman and a 70-year-old man who suffered a heart attack.

State news agency IRNA quoted local officials saying that electricity had been cut to 70 villages but that it was restored to at least 50 by dawn.

It added that there had been more than 65 aftershocks.

Bazvand said at least 500 buildings had been destroyed and would need to be completely rebuilt.

There were potential problems with drinking water due to damaged infrastructure in villages, but the local Red Crescent chief, Mohammad Reza Amirian, said it had not yet been necessary to distribute food and tents.

A crisis centre was set up, with hospitals and relief organisations placed on alert.

But the local director of crisis management, Reza Mahmoudian, told the Mehr news agency that "the situation was under control" and no request for help had been sent to neighbouring provinces.

There were reports that the quake was felt far across the border into Iraq.

Images on social media showed people being rushed to hospitals, but suggested relatively light damage to infrastructure.

Iran sits on top of two major tectonic plates and sees frequent seismic activity.

Kermanshah is still recovering from a devastating 7.3-magnitude quake that struck last November, killing 620 people in the province and another eight people in Iraq.

That quake left more than 12,000 people injured and damaged some 30,000 houses, leaving huge numbers homeless at the start of the cold season in the mountainous region.

Local officials said the estimated cost of reconstruction would be measured in the billions of dollars, at a time when Iran is struggling with a deepening economic downturn.

There was criticism that much of the new social housing built as part of a scheme championed by ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had failed to withstand the tremor.

President Hassan Rouhani said those responsible would be held to account.

Iran's deadliest quake in recent years was a 6.6-magnitude tremor that struck the southeast in 2003, decimating the ancient mud-brick city of Bam and killing 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.