02:25 - Source: CNN
Iran searches for quake victims

Story highlights

NEW: Drinking water cut in villages

State media: 17 aftershocks follow two powerful earthquakes

Some buildings in Tabriz were damaged

Iran has been prone to devastating earthquakes

Tehran, Iran CNN  — 

At least 250 people were killed and 2,000 others injured when two strong earthquakes jolted northwestern Iran on Saturday near the city of Tabriz, state-run news agencies said.

Iran’s state-run Press TV said 250 people had died. Officials feared the casualties would rise.

The city of Ahar was home to 45 of the deaths and 500 of the injured, a local official told state-run IRNA media.

The first earthquake, a magnitude 6.4, hit at 4:53 p.m. local time 37 miles northeast of Tabriz, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which measured 11 aftershocks. Just 11 minutes later a second quake, measuring 6.3, struck 30 miles northeast of Tabriz.

Authorities reported 17 aftershocks in the region, state-run IRNA media said. The semi-official Fars News Agency reported 35 aftershocks. Officials asked residents, as a safety precaution, to spend the night outdoors.

The quakes affected Tabriz, the capital of East Azarbaijan province, and nearby cities. It razed four villages and another 60 villages sustained heavy damage, said Fars. It said 40 people died in the city of Varzaqan and 50 were killed in Haris.

Initial reports said some buildings in Tabriz suffered structural damage and power lines were down. Telephone lines were down in Ahar, the quake’s epicenter. The extent of the damage was still being assessed.

Many people were in dire need of drinking water, bread and shelter, said Fars, quoting officials.

Authorities dispatched rescue teams to the area.

Press TV broadcast images of collapsed buildings and makeshift medical stations set up in the streets. In scenes broadcast by state-run IRINN, people lying on blankets were administered intravenous fluids.

Iran sits on major fault lines – the collision of the Arabia and Eurasia plates -- and has been prone to devastating earthquakes.

In 2003, 30,000 people died in an earthquake in Bam in southeastern Kerman province. In 1990, about 50,000 were killed in a quake that hit near the Caspian Sea.

CNN’s Shirzad Bozorgmehr and Michael Martinez contributed to this report.