Iranian women mourn for those who died in the earthquake February 24, 2005 in the village of Dahoueieh, about 700 km southeast of the capital Tehran, Iran. The earthquake which hit 6.4 on the Richter scale struck February 22 and and has reportedly killed at least 500 people. (Photo by Majid/Getty Images)
TEHRAN, Iran -- At least 153 people were killed and more than 700 others injured in two strong earthquakes that jolted northwestern Iran Saturday near the city of Tabriz, state-run news agencies said.
Iran's semi-official Fars said 153 people had died. Officials feared the casualties would rise.
The city of Ahar was home to 45 of the deaths and 500 of the injured, a local official told state-run IRNA media.
The first earthquake, a magnitude 6.4, hit at 4:53 p.m. local time 37 miles northeast of Tabriz, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Just 11 minutes later a second quake, measuring 6.3, struck 30 miles northeast of Tabriz.
Authorities reported 17 aftershocks in the region, state-run IRNA media said. The USGS reported six aftershocks.
The quakes affected Tabriz, the capital of East Azarbaijan province, and nearby cities. It razed four villages and another 60 villages sustained heavy damage, Fars said.
Initial reports said some buildings in Tabriz suffered structural damage and power lines were down. Telephone lines were down in Ahar, the quake's epicenter. The extent of the damage was still being assessed.
Authorities dispatched rescue teams to the area.
Iran sits on major fault ines and has been prone to devastating earthquakes.
In 2003, 30,000 people died in an earthquake in Bam in southeastern Kerman province. In 1990, about 50,000 were killed in a quake that hit near the Caspian Sea.