A severe earthquake hit the historic city of Bam in southeast Iran on Friday, and the state media reported that at least 4,000 people were killed and about 30,000 were injured. The earthquake took place rocked Bam at 5:28:59 hour on Friday, announced Tehran University's geophysics institute.
Iranian television said the magnitude 6.3 quake leveled some 60 percent of the houses in Bam, some 1000 kilometers southeast of the capital, killing many people as they slept.
"Many people have died," Kerman province Gov. Mohammad Ali Karimi said. "Many people are buried under the rubble." A preliminary estimate said the death toll could reach 20,000.
Several aftershocks, at least one up to 5.3 degrees on Richter scale, hit the quake-stricken city.
State media reported damage in three villages around Bam and said telephone links with the city were severed. Authorities were in contact with the Bam area through radio and satellite phone links.
Authorities have sent rescue workers with helicopters to the area, IRNA reported.
The 2000-year-old town of Bam, one of the oldest in Iran, has a reported population of more than 180,000 whose main income is from tourism. The main tourist attraction, however, the Arg'e Bam building, a palace for kings in ancient Persia, was reportedly flattened by the quake.
"This is a terrible tragedy," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured and the families of those who were killed."
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