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March 4, 2021

Dozens die in quake near Iran nuclear plant

Tehran announced three days of mourning.

A powerful earthquake has struck close to Iran’s only nuclear power station, killing at least 37 people and injuring 850 more as it devastated small villages, Al Jazeera reports. Tuesday’s 6.3 magnitude quake totally destroyed one village, a Red Crescent official told the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), but the nearby Bushehr nuclear plant was undamaged, according to a local politician and the Russian company that built it. Many houses in rural parts of the province are made of mud brick, which can easily crumble in a quake. zAbdulkarim Jomeiri, a member of parliament for Bushehr, told state media that “the distance between the earthquake focal point  and the Bushehr nuclear power plant was about 80km and, on the basis of the latest information, there has been no damage to the power plant.” The Russian company that built the nuclear power station, 18km south of Bushehr, also said the plant was unaffected.

‘No radioactive release’

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had been informed by Iran that the earthquake did not damage the Bushehr nuclear facility. “Iran has informed [the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre] of the event, reporting that there has been no damage to the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant and no radioactive release from the installation,” the UN agency said in a statement. Water and electricity were cut to many residents, said Ebrahim Darvishi, governor of the worst-hit district Shonbeh. Shahpour Rostami, the deputy governor of Bushehr province, told state TV that rescue teams have been deployed to Shonbeh. Three helicopters were sent to survey the damaged area before sunset, said Mohammad Mozaffar, the head of Iran’s Red Crescent rescue department. Mondani Hosseini, a resident of Kaki, told the Associated Press news agency that people had run out into the streets out of fear. Iran announced three days of mourning.

Six strong aftershocks

The quake hit at 11:52 GMT with a depth of 12km, the Iran Seismological Centre said. The US Geological Survey, which monitors quakes worldwide, ranked the quake at a more powerful 6.3 magnitude. Iranian media said search and rescue teams had been despatched to the area, to which telephone connection has been cut. The seismological centre has so far reported six aftershocks, the strongest at 5.3 magnitude. Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes, some of which have been devastating. A double earthquake, one measuring 6.2 and the other 6.0, struck Tabriz, in the northwest, in August last year, killing more than 300 people and injuring 3,000 more. In December 2003, a big earthquake struck the southern city of Bam. It killed 31,000 people – about a quarter of the population – and destroyed the city’s ancient mud-built citadel.


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