A strong 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck near Mianeh in northwestern Iran on early Friday, killing at least 5 people and injuring more than 120 others, local officials say. Dozens of homes were destroyed and rescue work is ongoing.
The quake struck at 2:17 a.m. local time on Friday and was centered about 33 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of Mianeh, a city in East Azerbaijan province. This is 81 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Ardabil and 120 kilometers (75 miles) southeast of Tabriz, the region’s capital.
The Iranian Seismological Center said the earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 5.9 and struck just 8 kilometers (5 miles) below the surface, making it a very shallow earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) initially put the magnitude at 5.8 but later revised it to 5.9.
Computer models from the USGS estimate that nearly 6.8 million people across the region could have felt Friday’s earthquake, including 149,000 people who may have felt “strong” to “very strong” shaking and an estimated 8,000 people who may have experienced “severe” shaking. It said “significant casualties” are likely.
Residents said the shaking was felt across the region and as far away as neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan. “The earthquake was relatively strong and caused relatives to wake up,” one person who lives 160 kilometers (99 miles) from the epicenter told EMSC. Many people fled from their homes.
Iranian news agencies said the earthquake destroyed dozens of residential buildings near the epicenter, but the extent of the damage was not immediately known. At least 5 people were killed, one of whom died in Turkmanchai where a gas pipeline exploded, and 120 others were injured. In Ardabil province, a number of people were injured while fleeing from their homes.
Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is regularly hit by moderate and strong earthquakes. Tremors with relatively low magnitudes have often resulted in serious damage and large numbers of casualties due to poor construction.
A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck the Iraq-Iran border region in November 2017, killing at least 630 people and injuring more than 8,000 others. And in August 2012, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck near Ahar in East Azerbaijan Province, killing more than 300 people.
Some 31,000 people were killed in December 2003 when a strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck near Bam in southeast Iran, causing widespread devastation. The country’s worst-ever earthquake happened in the year 856, killing an estimated 200,000 people.