More bodies found after earthquakes

DUBAI — Rescue workers recovered more bodies three days after two powerful earthquakes struck northwest Iran, leaving more than 300 dead, but officials played down reports the number of casualties could still sharply increase.

The quakes, with magnitudes of 6.4 and 6.3, struck East Azerbaijan province on Saturday afternoon, flattening villages and injuring thousands of people around the towns of Ahar, Varzaghan, and Harees, near the provincial capital Tabriz.

A search team using sniffer dogs pulled out the body of a young woman in the village of Sorkhgav and were close to finding others, Fars new agency reported.

Another report, by Iran’s Labour news agency, spoke of hundreds of villages having suffered severe damage, raising fears the number of dead could mount sharply as rescuers arrive in previously inaccessible areas.

But officials dismissed the estimates of a significant rise in fatalities, saying the eventual figure may be lower than already given.

“Many figures are based on speculation and have not been documented,” provincial coroner Behram Samadi Rad said. “We cannot give a precise figure of the number of dead but we believe it will be under 300.”

In Tehran, Karaj and Qom, thousands visited centres late into the night to donate blood, Press TV reported, including Iran’s Olympic gold medal-winning weightlifter, Behdad Salimi.

“I truly feel terrible for the people of East Azerbaijan. I want to do what I can to help them. The most important thing is to donate blood because of the shortage,” he said. (Reuters)

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