Up to 10 people were killed and dozens injured when an earthquake rocked four villages on the Iranian island of Qeshm yesterday lunchtime. State television showed images of victims, some with wounds, others bandaged and with limbs in plaster.
Tremors from the quake, which had a magnitude of 5.9, were felt in southern Iran and across the Persian Gulf in the UAE, where people were evacuated from tower blocks and shopping malls. Iran said a rescue team had been mobilised from the neighbouring port city of Bandar Abbas and was working to free people from the rubble. Many villagers have been left homeless, but the area has a warm winter climate.
"Of course we felt the earthquake and it was very frightening, but there was very little damage to the town," said a hotel receptionist in Qeshm town, which suffered less serious damage than other parts of the island. "Things are calm now."
The villages of Tonban, Ghavarzin, Khaledin and Gourian lie on the thinly populated western side of the arrow-shaped island, set in shallow waters in the straits of Hormuz, where the Persian Gulf meets the Indian Ocean. Several aftershocks, registering as high as magnitude 4.8, were felt on the island causing some panic.
Many of Qeshm's original inhabitants are Arab speakers but recent economic development and tax breaks have attracted businessmen from other parts of Iran to build on the island.