Two strong earthquakes have hit northwestern Iran, killing more than 150 people and injuring more than 1,300, Iranian officials have told the Fars news agency.
Hassan Ghadami, a deputy interior minister, told the semi-official Fars news agency that 153 people had died.
At the same time, the agency quoted Khalid Saie, the head of the regional natural disasters centre, as saying that 146 people had died, and 1,300 injured.
The differing death counts underlined the developing nature of the disaster in the quake zone, northeast of the city of Tabriz, as emergency workers recovered bodies and rescued survivors.
Earlier, Gholamreza Masoumi, the country’s head of emergency services said that the injured were being taken to Tabriz, the biggest city in the region, and Ardebil, a neighouring province.
Panicked residents fled their homes after the earthquakes on Saturday, which the US Geological Survey ranked at 6.4 and 6.3 on the Richter scale.
Tehran University’s Seismological Centre said the first earthquake hit at 4:53pm local time (12:23 GMT) with an epicentre just 60km from Tabriz, close to the town of Ahar, and a depth of 10km.
The second – a big aftershock – hit 11 minutes later from nearly the same spot. A series of 11 smaller aftershocks rating 4.7 or below rapidly followed.
“We are asking people to not panic,” Saie said. “Help is arriving and rescuers are already at the scene.”
– Al JazeeraShare on WhatsApp