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At Least 5,000 Feared Dead in Iran Quake - 2003-12-26

Iranian officials say many people have been killed in a powerful early morning earthquake Friday that struck near an ancient city in southeastern Iran. Much of the town is reported to have been destroyed.

The earthquake struck the historic city of Bam about 5:30 in the morning local time.

Within hours, many deaths and injuries were being reported along with widespread damage.

Iran's state media say the majority of buildings in the town, located about 1,000 kilometers southeast of the capital, Tehran, have collapsed. Many people were reported buried in the rubble.

Officials are appealing for donations of blood, blankets and medicine.

Telephone communications with the town were reported to be cut off.

The Iranian government has set up a crisis center about 200 kilometers north of Bam, and is conducting a major rescue effort. Five helicopters, two C-130 transport planes and crews from the Red Crescent aid organization have been dispatched to the area.

The ancient city of Bam, known for its citadel and centuries-old buildings, is home to about 50,000 people. Much of the town is constructed of mud bricks, clay and straw.

Several major seismic fault lines run through Iran, which frequently experiences earthquakes. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the temblor had a preliminary magnitude of 6.7, which can cause serious damage. It was followed by a series of aftershocks.

In June of 2000, a temblor measuring 6.3 struck northern Iran, killing more than 220 people and injuring more than a thousand others.

In 1990, 35,000 people were killed in northeast Iran, when a quake measuring 7.7 struck the region.