First Posted: 4/16/2013 4:16:00 PM
TEHRAN, Iran — An earthquake toppled homes and shops on both sides of the Iran-Pakistan border Tuesday, killing dozens of people and causing skyscrapers to sway in Dubai. It also forced Iranian officials — for the second time in less than a week — to issue assurances that its main nuclear reactor wasn’t damaged.
At least 34 people were killed in a single village in Pakistan, a military official said. But the overall death toll became clouded after conflicting reports from Iran.
At first, Iran’s state-in Press TV said at least 40 people died — which would push the two-nation tally to 74. But it later retreated from its account, and other Iranian outlets stepped in with a far less dire picture.
Despite the conflicting reports on the Iranian side, a Pakistani military official said at least 34 were killed on his side of the border and 80 were injured. Up to 1,000 mud homes were damaged, Pakistan Television added. The military spoke on condition of anonymity in line with Pakistan military policy.
A Pakistani policeman, Azmatullah Regi, said nearly three dozen homes and shops collapsed in one village in the Mashkel area, which was the hardest hit by the quake. Rescue workers pulled the bodies of a couple and their three children, ages 5 to 15, from the rubble of one house, he said.
The Pakistani army ordered paramilitary troops to assist with rescue operations and provide medical treatment. Additional troops are being moved to the area, and army helicopters were mobilized to carry medical staff, tents, medicine and other relief items.
The discrepancies and apparent backtracking in the Iranian reports could not be immediately reconciled, but it was the second quake to hit Iran in less than week and authorities could be seeking to downplay casualties.
Commentary on Iranian TV criticized international media for “exaggerating” the death toll, raising further questions about the full extent of the damage in the rugged region that’s a front line in Iran’s battle against drug traffickers and the Sunni-based militant group, Jundallah, which carries out sporadic attacks.
Press TV said the quake was centered near Saravan, about 26 miles from the Pakistani border. The U.S. Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude at 7.8 and at a depth of nine miles.
Iran’s nuclear chief Fereidoun Abbasi said there was no damage to the Bushehr reactor and invited U.N. inspectors to visit, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported. Abbasi repeated the statement issued after last week’s quake: The Bushehr plan was built to withstand quakes up to magnitude 8, which is considerably stronger than Tuesday’s temblor.
The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security also called any damage to Bushehr “unlikely” from the latest quake.
In Iran, the Red Crescent said it was facing a “complicated emergency situation” in the area with villages scattered over desolate hills and valleys.