A massive earthquake of 7.8 magnitude struck Iran near its border with Pakistan today, leaving over 40 people dead and causing heavy destruction to buildings and houses. Iranian officials said hundreds of people have been feared killed and that they were yet to take full stock of the situation.
The US Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude of the quake at 7.8 and at a depth of 15.2 km. USGS said the epicenter of the quake was in southeast Iran, 201 km southeast of Zahedan and 250 km northwest of Turbat in Pakistan.
Iran's state-run Press TV said the quake was centered near Saravan, about 50 km from the Pakistani border. It said at least 40 people were killed, but gave no details on the extent of damage or casualties.
The quake hit Zabul, Saravan, Khash and other areas but authorities said the tremors were not of a kind to cause many deaths.
In Zahedan, people poured into the streets when the earthquake struck, Iran's Fars news agency reported.
All communication lines in the area had broken down and the Iranian Red Crescent said it has dispatched rescue teams to the affected areas.
The tremors from the quake flattened homes and offices in the sparsely populated Iran-Pakistan border area while the impact was felt as far away as the Gulf states and upto New Delhi.
Tremors also shook Ahmedabad city and many other parts of Kutch and south Gujarat this afternoon, an official of the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) said.
The quake shook skyscrapers in New Delhi, sending people running into the streets, witnesses said.
People were also evacuated from buildings in Gulf cities of Qatar and Dubai, residents said.
"It was the biggest earthquake in Iran in 40 years and we are expecting hundreds dead," said a government official.
This is the second major earthquake in Iran in recent times since a 6.3 magnitude quake struck close to Iran's nuclear power station, killing 37 people, injuring 850 and devastating two villages on 9 April.
This time around, however, the quake spared Iran's nuclear-related facilities located in central Iran or its west, including the Bushehr nuclear power plant on the Gulf coast.
Iran, which is situated on major geological faultlines, has suffered several devastating earthquakes, including a 6.6 magnitude quake in 2003 that flattened the city of Bam, in the far southeast and killed more than 25,000 people.
India's disaster management authority also reported two smaller tremors in the Himalayan region close to the Chinese border earlier in the day, but said the tremors felt in New Delhi and across northern India were because of the earthquake in Iran.