MOSCOW, April 9 (RIA Novosti) – At least 32 people were killed after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the Bushehr province in southern Iran on Tuesday, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported citing the governor of Bushehr.
Governor Fereydoun Hassanvand said the earthquake also injured at least 850 people adding that the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, which is located in the province, remained unaffected.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) earlier reported that the quake was registered at 4:22 p.m. local time (11:52 a.m. GMT). Its epicenter was some 90 kilometers (56 miles) away from Iran’s Bushehr NPP and at a depth of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles). The quake was followed by a series of aftershocks with the strongest one of 5.4 magnitude.
The IRNA news agency said earlier in the day that the epicenter of the quake was located near the city of Khurmoj in the Bushehr province. At least three people were killed and 650 injured in Khurmoj, the agency said citing Head of Relief and Rescue Organization Mahmoud Mozaffar.
IRNA also reported that two nearby villages, Shanbe, with a population of 1,750, and Sana, with a population of 1,250, were almost completely destroyed.
According to BBC, some 10,000 people are thought to reside in more than 50 villages affected by the earthquake.
A spokesman for Russia’s Atomstroyexport, a Rosatom subsidiary that completed the construction of the Bushehr NPP, confirmed that the earthquake did not affect the plant and it continues operating normally.
“Tremors were felt at the plant, but the earthquake did not affect the standard situation at the energy block. All personnel continue to work in the normal regime, the levels of radiation are within the norms,” he said.
Last February, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake also struck near the Bushehr NPP, but did not cause any damage to the plant.
The deadliest earthquake in Iran, which measured 7.7 points on the Richter scale, took place in June 1990. About 37,000 people were killed and more than 100,000 were injured in the northern provinces of Gilan and Zanjan. The quake devastated 27 towns and about 1,870 villages, according to the IRNA news agency.
Construction at Bushehr by West Germany's Kraftwerk Union AG began in the 1970s, but was plagued by delays. Germany's involvement ended in 1980 due to concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions and a regime change in the country. Russia signed a billion-dollar deal with Tehran to complete the plant's Power Unit 1 in 1995, according to Atomstroyexport.
The plant's launch in August 2010 prompted Israel and other nations to express fear that the reactor could be used to create an atomic bomb. Tehran denied the allegations, saying the facility would be used for peaceful power generation only.
(Changes headline, recasts lead, paragraphs 2-7, updates with information on the number of killed and injured people and damages caused by the quake)