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'Devastating' quake strikes near Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant, kills dozens

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake hits near the port city of Bushehr, Iran, raising concerns about the safety of the nuclear power station located 11 miles south. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

A magnitude-6.3 earthquake struck near Iran's only nuclear power station Tuesday, killing at least 37 people and injuring hundreds, according to one report, and generating tremors that were felt on the other side of the Persian Gulf.

The quake struck about 60 miles southeast of the city of Bushehr on Iran's south coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

"No damage was done to Bushehr power plant," Bushehr provincial governor Fereidoun Hasanvand told state TV, according to The Associated Press. He said 850 people were injured, including 100 who were hospitalized.

Government news agency IRNA described the quake as "devastating" and reported that the dead were in the villages of Shanbe and Tasouj. One hundred ambulances were being sent to the area from the capital Tehran, it said.


IRNA said Iran's Red Crescent Society had sent five assessment teams to the area to coordinate rescue operations, and that helicopters from Fars and Khuzestan provinces were airlifting supplies required by rescue teams. 

One Bushehr resident told Reuters by telephone that her home and her neighbors' homes shook but were not damaged.

"We could clearly feel the earthquake," said Nikoo, who asked to be identified only by her first name. "The windows and chandeliers all shook."

The quake was felt in Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain on the other side of the Persian Gulf, according to The Weather Channel. Twitter users in Bahrain and Qatar said buildings there had been evacuated.

In a preliminary report, the USGS said the magnitude-6.3 quake struck at 6:52 a.m. ET at a depth of just under 8 miles.

The Iranian Seismological Center at the University of Tehran put the magnitude at a lower 6.1 and said the epicenter was in Kaki, an inland town around 60 miles southeast of Bushehr.

A series of five aftershocks followed within an hour of the initial temblor, the strongest of which measured at a magnitude of 5.4, the USGS reported.

On its website, the USGS estimated that only about 3,000 people would have felt most violent shaking from the quake, and said another 80,000 live in areas that would have experienced strong tremors. In the region’s largest city, Shiraz, home to about 1.5 million people, the earthquake would have been felt as light shaking.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announces his country "has gone nuclear" as Iran starts production at two uranium mines and a yellow-cake plant. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

The nuclear plant's operations were unaffected, an official with the Russian company that built the facility told Iran's RIA news agency, according to Reuters. "The earthquake in no way affected the normal situation at the reactor, personnel continue to work in the normal regime and radiation levels are fully within the norm,'' RIA quoted an official at Atomstroy as saying.

Iran insists its nuclear plant at Bushehr is for civilian purposes, but there is international concern that the regime may be building nuclear weapons.

Western experts and Gulf Arab countries have worried about the plant being in an area with such high seismic activity, but Iran has repeatedly maintained that it is safe.

Related:

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Diplomat: Iran, West 'a long way apart'

Full Iran coverage from NBC News

 

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