Magnitude-5.1 earthquake hits northwestern Iran, injuring 50

VARZAGAN, IRAN (BNO NEWS) -- A moderate earthquake shook northwestern Iran Wednesday near the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan, injuring at least 50 people, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported. It comes just three months after a larger quake killed more than 300 people in the same region.

The 5.1-magnitude earthquake at 09:56 a.m. local time (0626 GMT) was centered in northwestern Iran about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the city of Varzaghan, the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. It struck about 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to Iran's Seismological Center.

The semi-official Fars News Agency said the tremors caused damage and injured at least 50 people, many of whom were suffering from hand and foot fractures. Some of the victims also suffered more serious injures and were rushed to an area hospital by rescue workers, the report said.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which measured the strength of the earthquake at a body wave magnitude of 5.5, said some 16,000 people near the epicenter could have perceived moderate tremors while as many as 2.6 million may have felt light to moderate shaking.

Earthquakes, even those which have a low or moderate magnitude, often cause heavy damage and large numbers of casualties in certain parts of the country due to poor construction. Tremors which strike during the night are especially deadly when most residents are sleeping.

Less than three months ago, at least 306 people were killed and more than 3,000 were injured when a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck about 17 kilometers (10 miles) from the city of Ahar in East Azerbaijan Province. It was estimated that more than 5,000 buildings were seriously damaged,

And in December 2010, at least seven people were killed and hundreds more were injured when a strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) from the town of Hosein abad in Kerman Province, located in southeastern Iran. It followed a 5.9-magnitude earthquake in August 2010 which killed two young children.

Before that, in November 2009, a light 4.9-magnitude earthquake struck the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas, injuring more than 700 people. In December 2003, around 31,000 people were killed and more than 30,000 others were injured when a strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck near Bam. It left the area devastated with 85 percent of buildings damaged or destroyed in the city.

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