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April 16, 2013

Powerful Quake Hits Iran-Pakistan Border

by Sharon Behn

A powerful earthquake hit a remote area of southeast Iran near Pakistan, killing at least 13 people on the Pakistani side and shaking buildings as far away as Dubai.

The earthquake is said to be one of the strongest ever to hit Iran. Iranian officials said there were no deaths there, although earlier state media reports put the death toll at 40.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Tuesday's quake had a magnitude of 7.8, making it one of the strongest in the region in the past 40 years. It said the quake happened at 3:14 p.m. Iran time near the Iranian cities of Khash and Saravan in Sistan and Baluchestan province.

Iranian broadcasters put out a terse statement saying that a 7.5 earthquake had hit the country.

Sistan and Balochestan Governor Hatam Narouyi told Iranian media there were no known fatalities as the epicenter was in a sparsely-populated area. He said several people were injured and sent to hospitals. Due to the remoteness of the region, initial reports are difficult to verify.

Pakistani authorities said hundreds of homes collapsed in their province of Balochistan. They said people were killed in the districts of Mashkeel and Panjgur and many others were injured.

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari expressed his "grief and sorrow" over the loss of lives and property.

​​Journalist Muhammad Kazim was sitting in the press center in Quetta, the capital city of Pakistan's Balochistan, when the earthquake hit.

"It has jolted many parts, almost all areas of Balochistan. We were in the press club at that time and there were big jerks in Quetta city," said
Kazim. "We felt that the fans were moving, building was moving so all journalists and photographers who were sitting in this press club, they left press club."

Kazim said he had been in touch with people closer to the border, who had told him that houses had been flattened by the quake.

Iran is prone to frequent earthquakes as it sits on several major fault lines. On April 9 this year, a magnitude 6 quake shook southwestern Iran near the city of Bushehr, killing at least 37 people.