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UNICEF ready to assist Qeshm quake victims

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is ready to provide assistance after a moderate-sized earthquake struck the Persian Gulf island of Qeshm in southern Iran over the weekend.

"We are preparing to respond if needed, pending a request by the government and further assessments," Jan Kleiburg, UNICEF officer-in-charge, said from the Iranian capital Tehran on Monday. "In terms of basic survival needs, it seemed the Iranian authorities had things under control."

At least 10 people were killed and scores more were injured when the quake, which measured 5.9 on the Richter scale, struck Iran's southern coastal area on Sunday.

According to the US Geological Survey, the tremor struck at 13:53 local time, 60 km southwest of the port city of Bandar-e Abbas and 1,065 km southeast of Tehran.

The tremor was felt as far away as Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), media reports said.

Approximately 12 villages on the densely populated island were affected, with between 50 to 90 percent of homes being damaged, Kleiburg said.

"Some 2,000 people or 700 families were affected and will be in need of some kind of support," he explained, noting of the 90 people injured, 15 were in serious condition.

But while the UN agency had informed the authorities it was ready to assist as needed, Kleiburg emphasised that the authorities, including the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS), as well as the military, appeared to have things under control.

"They are currently doing an assessment of the infrastructure damage in the area and will come back to us," he said.

Meanwhile, as night fell, rescue workers were satisfied they had reached almost all the villages that had been affected, the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) said, with helicopters used to ferry the injured to hospitals on the mainland.

For many of the 100,000 or so residents of the island, it has been a lucky escape, the ABC report said.

A spokesman from the US Geological Survey, Waverley Person, reportedly said that the death toll would have been much higher if the quake had happened during the night.

"It was about 13:52 so that means that most people were up and around and they were not all at home sleeping," ABC quoted him as saying.

"Usually when you have those in the wee hours of the morning quite a few people are killed because you have everyone in one place."

Experts regard Iran as the number one country in the world for earthquakes - whether measured in intensity, frequency or the number of casualties, the BBC reported. In December 2003, a quake in the southeastern city of Bam killed about 30,000 people and, in February 2005, more than 500 people died in the Zarand area in another quake. Experts say on average there's a small earthquake every day in Iran, the report said.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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